Skip to main content

Full text of "I remember mama,"

See other formats


UNIVERSITY 
OF FLORIDA 
LIBRARIES 




COLLEGE LIBBAB* 



I REMEMBER MAMA 



Also by John van Druten 
Flays 

YOUNG WOODLEY 

DIVERSION 

AFTER ALL 

LONDON WALL 

THERE'S ALWAYS JULIET 

SOMEBODY KNOWS 

BEHOLD, WE LIVE 

THE DISTAFF SIDE 

FLOWERS OF THE FOREST 

MOST OF THE GAME 

GERTIE MAUDE 

LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN 

OLD ACQUAINTANCE 

THE DAMASK CHEEK (with Lloyd Morris) 

THE VOICE OF THE TURTLE 

Novels 

YOUNG WOODLEY 

A WOMAN ON HER WAY 

AND THEN YOU WISH 

Autobiography 

THE WAY TO THE PRESENT 



I REMEMBER 
MAMA 



A PLAY IN TWO ACTS 

BY 

JOHN van DRUTEN 



ADAPTED FROM KATHRYN FORBES BOOK 
MAMA'S BANK ACCOUNT 



HARCOURT, BRACE AND COMPANY, NEW YORK 



COPYRIGHT, 1944, 1945, BY 
JOHN van DRUTEN 

INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT SECURED 



The amateur acting rights of this play are controlled 
exclusively by the Dramatists Play Service, Inc., 6 East 
39th Street, New York 16, New York, without whose 
permission in writing no performance of it may be made. 



PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 






TO MADY 

with love 



c, -1- 



"I Remember Mama" was first produced by Messrs. Rich- 
ard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II at the Shubert The- 
atre, New Haven, Connecticut, on September 28, 1944, and 
subsequently at the Music Box Theatre, New York City, 
on October 19, 1944, with the following cast: 

Joan Tetzel 

Mady Christians 

Richard Bishop 

Carolyn Hummel 

Frances Heflin 

Oswald Marshall 

Marlon Brando 

Adrienne Gessner 

Ellen Mahar 

Ruth Gates 

Oscar Homolka 

Louise Lorimer 

Bruno Wick 

William Pringle 

Robert Antoine 

Marie Gale 

Dorothy Elder 

Frank Babcock 

Cora Smith 

Ottilie Kruger 

Josephine Brown 

Herbert Kenwith 



^KATRIN 

MAMA 

PAPA 

DAGMAR 
/CHRISTINE 

MR. HYDE 

NELS 
VAUNT TRINA 

AUNT SIGRID 

AUNT JENNY 

UNCLE CHRIS 

A WOMAN 

MR. THORKELSON 

DR. JOHNSON 

ARNE 

A NURSE 

ANOTHER NURSE 

SODA CLERK 

MADELINE 

DOROTHY SCHILLER 

FLORENCE DANA MOORHEAD 

BELL-BOY 



Staged by Mr. van Druten 

Settings and lighting by George Jenkins 

Costumes designed by Lucinda Ballard 



CHARACTERS 



KATRIN 

MAMA 

PAPA 

DAGMAR 

CHRISTINE 

NELS 

MR. HYDE 

AUNT TRINA 

AUNT JENNY 

AUNT SIGRID 

UNCLE CHRIS 



A WOMAN 

MR. THORKELSON 

DR. JOHNSON 

ARNE 

A NURSE 

ANOTHER NURSE 

SODA CLERK 

MADELINE 

DOROTHY SCHILLER 

FLORENCE DANA MOORHEAD 

BELL-BOY 



Scrub woman, nurses, doctors, and hotel guests. 

The action passes in and around San Francisco some years 
ago. 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
ACT ONE 



ACT ONE 



(The stage directions in this script are a descrip- 
tion of the method of presentation used in the pro- 
duction at The Music Box Theatre, New York 
City. It is possible that these could be altered or 
simplified in the case of other productions, if 
necessary.) 

The period of the play is around 1910. 

On either side of the stage, down front, are two 
small turntables, left and right, on which the 
shorter front scenes are played against very sim- 
plified backgrounds. As each scene finishes the 
lights dim and the table revolves out, leaving an 
unobstructed view of the main stage. The main 
stage is raised by two steps, above which traveler 
curtains open and close. 

When the curtain rises, katrin, in a spotlight, is 
seated at a desk on the right turntable, facing the 
audience. She is writing and smoking a cigarette. 
katrin is somewhere in her early twenties. She 
should be played by an actress who is small in 
stature, and capable of looking sufficiently a child 
not to break the illusion in subsequent scenes. She 
is a blonde. Her hair, when we see her first, is in 
a modern "up" style, capable of being easily 
loosened to fall to shoulder length for the child- 
hood scenes. She wears a very short dress, the skirt 

3 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

of 'which is concealed for the prologue by the desk 
behind which she is seated. 

katrin writes in silence for a few moments, then 
puts down her pen, takes up her manuscript, and 
begins to read aloud what she has written. 

KATRIN 

(Reading) 
"For as long as I could remember, the house on Steiner 
Street had been home. Papa and Mama had both been 
born in Norway, but they came to San Francisco because 
Mama's sisters were here. All of us were born here. Nels, 
the oldest and the only boy— my sister Christine— and the 
littlest sister, Dagmar." 

(She puts down her manuscript and looks out 
front) 
It's funny, but when I look back, I always see Nels and 
Christine and myself looking almost as we do today. I 
guess that's because the people you see all the time stay 
the same age in your head. Dagmar's different. She was 
always the baby— so I see her as a baby. Even Mama— it's 
funny, but I always see Mama as around forty. She 
couldn't always have been forty. 

(She puts out her cigarette, picks up her manu- 
script and starts to read again) 
"Besides us, there was our boarder, Mr. Hyde. Mr. Hyde 
was an Englishman who had once been an actor, and 
Mama was very impressed by his flowery talk and 
courtly manners. He used to read aloud to us in the 
evenings. But first and foremost, I remember Mama." 

(The light dims down, leaving katrin only faintly 
visible. Lights come up on the main stage, reveal- 
ing the house on Steiner Street— a kitchen room. It 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

has a back flat, with a dresser C, holding china. 
On either side of the dresser is a door; the one to 
the R. leads to the pantry; the one to the L. to 
the rest of the house. The L. wall is a short one. 
It is the wall of the house, and contains a door up- 
stage leading into the street, being presumably the 
back door of the house, but the one most com- 
monly used as the entry-door. Beyond it the street 
is visible, with a single lamp-post L., just outside 
the house. Behind the room rises the house itself 
with upper windows lighted, and behind it a 
painted backdrop of the San Francisco hills, 
houses, and telegraph posts. 

The furniture of the kitchen is simple. A table C, 
with two chairs above it, armchairs at either end, 
and a low bench below it. Against the R. wall up- 
stage, a large stove; below it another armchair. 
The window is below the door in the L. wall and 
has a low Norwegian chest under it) 

katrin's voice 

(Continuing in the half -dark, as the scene is re- 
vealed) 
"I remember that every Saturday night Mama would sit 
down by the kitchen table and count out the money 
Papa had brought home in the little envelope." 

(By now the tableau is revealed in full, and the 
*4ight on katrin dwindles further. The picture is as 
she described, mama— looking around forty— is in 
the armchair R. of the table, emptying the en- 
velope of its silver dollars and smaller coins, papa— 
looking a little older than mama— stands above her. 

5 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

His English throughout is better than hers, with 
less accent) 

MAMA 

You call the children, Lars. Is good they should know 
about money. 

(papa goes to door back L., and calls) 

PAPA 

Children! Nels— Christine— Katrin! 

children's voices 

{Off, answering) 
Coming, Papa! 

MAMA 

You call loud for Katrin. She is in her study, maybe. 

PAPA 

She is where? 

MAMA 

Katrin make the old attic under the roof into a study. 

PAPA 

{Amused) 
So? 

{Shouting) 
Katrin! Katrin! 

KATRIN 

(Still at her desk, down front) 
Yes, Papa. I heard. 

PAPA 

(Returning to the room) 
A study now, huh? What does Katrin study? 

6 



• I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

I think Katrin wants to be author. 

PAPA 

Author? 

MAMA 

Stories she will write. For the magazines. And books, too, 
maybe, one day. 

PAPA 

{Taking out his pipe) 
Is good pay to be author? 

MAMA 

I don't know. For magazines, I think maybe yes. For 
books, I think no. 

PAPA 

Then she become writer for magazines. 

MAMA 

Maybe. But I like she writes books. Like the ones Mr. 
Hyde reads us. 

(dagmar enters from the pantry. She is a plump 
child of about eight and carries an alley cat in her 
arms) 

Dagmar, you bring that cat in again? 

DAGMAR 

Sure, she's my Elizabeth— my beautiful Elizabeth! 

(She crosses to the chest under the imndoiv, and 
sits, nursing the cat) 

PAPA 

Poor Elizabeth looks as if she had been in fight again. 

7 



I REMEMBER MAMA 



DAGMAR 

Not poor Elizabeth. Brave Elizabeth. Elizabeth's a Vik- 
ing cat. She fights for her honor! 

PAPA 

(Exchanging an amused glance with mama) 
And just what is a cat's honor, little one? 

DAGMAR 

The honor of being the bravest cat in San Francisco. 

(christine comes in back L. She, like katrin, 
should be played by a small young actress, but not 
a child. Her hair is to her shoulders— her dress 
short— her age indeterminate. Actually, she is 
about 13 at this time. She is the cool, aloof, matter- 
of-fact one of the family) 

Aren't you, Elizabeth? 

CHRISTINE 

(Sitting above the table) 
That disgusting cat! 

lGMAR 

She's not disgusting. She's beautiful. Beautiful as the 
dawn! 



DAGMAR 



CHRISTINE 

And when have you ever seen the dawn? 

DAGMAR 

I haven't seen it, but Mr. Hyde read to us about it. 

(mr. hyde comes in from door back L. He is a 
slightly seedy, long-haired man in his fifties. Rather 
of the old-fashioned English "laddie" actor type. 
He nxears a very shabby long overcoat, <with a de- 

8 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

plorable fur collar, and carries his hat. His accent 
is English) 

Didn't you, Mr. Hyde? Didn't you read to us about the 
dawn? 

MR. HYDE 

I did, my child of joy. The dawn, the rosy-finger- tipped 
Aurora. . . . 

DAGMAR 

When can I get to see the dawn, Mama? 

MAMA 

Any morning you get up early. 

DAGMAR 

Is there a dawn every morning? 

MAMA 

Sure. 

DAGMAR 

(Incredulous) 
It's all that beautiful, and it happens every morning? 
Why didn't anyone tell me? 

MR. HYDE 

My child, that is what the poets are for. To tell you of 
all the beautiful things that are happening every day, and 
that no one sees until they tell them. 
(He starts for the door L.) 

MAMA 

You go out, Mr. Hyde? 

MR. HYDE 

For a few moments only, dear Madam. To buy myself a 
modicum of that tawny weed, tobacco, that I lust after, 

9 



I REMEMBER MAMA 



as Ben Jonson says. I shall be back in time for our nightly 
reading. 

(He goes out and disappears down the street, into 

the wings, off L.) 

MAMA 

(Who has gone to the door back L., calls with a 
good deal of sharpness and firmness) 
Nels! Katrin! You do not hear Papa call you? 

NELS 

(From off, upstairs') 
Coming, Mama! 

KATRIN 

(At her desk) 
Yes, Mama. I'm coming. 

(She rises. In her few moments in the dark, she has 
loosened her hair to her shoulders, and we see that 
her skirt is short as she walks from her desk, and 
up the steps into the set. As soon as she has left it, 
the turntable revolves out. Immediately after her, 
nels comes in back L. He is a tall, strapping young 
fellow— old enough to look iS or 19, or 1$ or 16, 
according to his dress, or demeanor. Now, he is 
about is) 

PAPA 

So now all are here. 

MAMA 

Come, then. 

(Christine, nels and katrin gather around the 
table, dagmar remains crooning to Elizabeth) 
(Sorting coins) 
First, for the landlord. 

10 



I REMEMBER MAMA 



(She makes a pile of silver dollars. It gets pushed 
down the table from one member of the family to 
the next, each speaking as he passes it. papa comes 
last) 



NELS 



(Passing it on) 
For the landlord. 

KATRIN 

(Doing likewise) 
For the landlord. 

CHRISTINE 

(Passing it to papa) 
The landlord. 

PAPA 

For the landlord. 

(He dumps the pile at his end of the table, writing 
on a piece of paper, which he wraps around the 
pile) 

MAMA 

(Who has been sorting) 
For the grocer. 

(The business is repeated. During this repeat, 
Dagmafs crooning to the cat becomes audible, 
contrapuntally to the repetitions of u For the 
grocer") 

DAGMAR 

(In a crescendo) 
In all the United States no cat was as brave as Elizabeth. 

(Fortissimo) 
In all the world no cat was as brave as Elizabeth! 

13 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

{Gently) 
Hush, Dagmar. Quietly. You put Elizabeth back into the 
pantry. 

DAGMAR 

(In a loud ', stage whisper, as she crosses to pantry) 
In Heaven or HELL no cat was as brave as Elizabeth! 
(She goes out with the cat) 

MAMA 

For Katrin's shoes to be half-soled. 
(She passes a half dollar) 

NELS 

Katrin's shoes. 

KATRIN 

(Proudly) 
My shoes! 

CHRISTINE 

( Contemptuously ) 
Katrin's old shoes. 

PAPA 

Katrin's shoes. 

CHRISTINE 

Mama, Teacher says this week I'll need a new notebook. 

MAMA 

How much it will be? 

CHRISTINE 

A dime. 
12 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

(Giving her a dime) 
For the notebook. You don't lose it. 

CHRISTINE 

I won't lose it. 

(She wraps it in her handkerchief) 

MAMA 

You take care when you blow your nose. 

CHRISTINE 

I'll take care. 

PAPA 

Is all, Mama? 

MAMA 

Is all for this week. Is good. We do not have to go to 
the Bank. 

(She starts to gather up the few remaining coins. 

katrin leaves the group, comes and sits on steps, 

front) 

nels 
Mama. . . . 

(She looks up, catching an urgency in his tone. 

papa suspends smoking for a moment) 
Mama, I'll be graduating from grammar school next 
month. Could I . . . could I go on to High, do you 
think? 

MAMA 

(Pleased) 

You want to go to High School? 

nels 
I'd like to ... if you think I could. 

13 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

Is good. 

(papa nods approvingly) 

NELS 

(Awkwardly) 
It . . . it'll cost a little money. I've got it all written 
down. 

(Producing a piece of paper from his pocket) 
Carfare, clothes, notebooks, things I'll really need. I fig- 
ured it out with Cy Nichols. He went to High last year. 

(mama and papa come closer together, to look at 
the paper he puts before them) 

MAMA 

Get the Little Bank, Christine. 

(christine gets a small box from the dresser) 

KATRIN 

(From the steps— herself again, in the present- 
looking out front) 
The Little Bank! That was the most important thing in 
the whole house. It was a box we used to keep for emer- 
gencies—like the time when Dagmar had croup and Papa 
had to go and get medicine to put in the steam kettle. I 
can smell that medicine now! The things that came out of 
the Little Bank! Mama was always going to buy herself a 
warm coat out of it, when there was enough, only there 
never was. 

(Meanwhile, mama has been counting the con- 
tents) 

NELS 

(Anxiously) 
Is there enough, Mama? 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

MAMA 

(Shaking her head) 
Is not much in the Little Bank right now. We give to the 
dentist, you remember? And for your roller-skates? 

NELS 

(His face falling) 
I know. And there's your warm coat youVe been saving 
for. 

MAMA 

The coat I can get another time. But even so . . . 

(She shakes her head) 

CHRISTINE 

You mean Nels can't go to High? 

MAMA 

Is not enough here. We do not want to have to go to the 
Bank, do we? 

NELS 

No, Mama, no. I'll work in Dillon's grocery after school. 

(mama ivrites a figure on the paper and starts to 
count on her fingers, papa looks over, and does 
the sum in his head) 

PAPA 

Is not enough. 

MAMA 

(Finishing on her fingers against her collarbone) 
No, is not enough. 

PAPA 

(Taking his pipe out of his mouth and looking at 
it a long time) 

15 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

I give up tobacco. 

(mama looks at him, almost speaks, then just 
touches his sleeve, writes another figure and starts 
on her fingers again) 

CHRISTINE 

I'll mind the Maxwell children Friday nights. Katrin can 
help me. 

(mama writes another figure, papa looks over- 
calculates again, nods with satisfaction) 

MAMA 

( Triumphantly ) 
Is good! Is enough! 

NELS 

Gee! 

MAMA 

We do not have to go to the Bank. 

(dagmar returns, without the cat) 

DAGMAR 

{Hearing the last line) 
Where is the Bank? 

CHRISTINE 

Downtown. 

DAGMAR 

What's it look like? 

CHRISTINE 

Just a building. 

DAGMAR 

Like a prison? 
16 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
CHRISTINE 

(Sharply) 
No, nothing like a prison. 

DAGMAR 

Well, then, why does Mama always say "We don't want 
to go to the Bank"? 

CHRISTINE 

Because . . . well, because no one ever wants to go to 
the Bank. 

DAGMAR 

Why not? 

CHRISTINE 

Because if we went to the Bank all the time, there'd be 
no money left there. And then if we couldn't pay our 
rent, they'd turn us out like Mrs. Jensen down the street. 

DAGMAR 

You mean, it's like saving some of your candy for tomor- 
row? 

MAMA 

Yes, my Dagmar. Is exactly like saving your candy. 

DAGMAR 

But if ... if all the other people go to the Bank, then 
there won't be any money left for us, either. 

NELS 

(Kindly) 
It isn't like that, Dagmar. Everyone can only get so 
much. 

DAGMAR 

How much? 

17 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
NELS 

However much you've got there . . . put away. You 
see, it's our money that we put there, to keep safe. 

DAGMAR 

When did we put it there? 

NELS 

I ... I don't know when. A long time back, I guess. 
Wasn't it, Mama? 

MAMA 

Is enough about the Bank. 

DAGMAR 

How much money have we got in the Bank? 

NELS 

I don't know. How much, Mama? 

MAMA 

Enough. 

(During the last speeches aunt trina appears 
from the wings down front L. She is a timid, 
mouselike little woman of about 40, with some 
prettiness about her. She wears her hat and coat, 
and a pathetic feather boa. She comes up the street 
and knocks on the house door) 

MAMA 

{Hearing the knock) 
Was the door? 

CHRISTINE 

(Quickly) 
If it's the Aunts, I'm going to my boodwar. 

18 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
KATRIN 

(Rising, entering the scene) 
And I'm going to my study. 

MAMA 

(Stopping them) 
You cannot run away. We must be polite to the Aunts c 

(papa has opened the door) 

Why, is Trina! 

PAPA 

Trina, and all by herself! 

MAMA 

Say good evening to Aunt Trina, children. 

CHILDREN 

(Together) 
Good evening, Aunt Trina. 

TRINA 

Good evening, children. How well they all look. 

MAMA 

You have a feather boa. Is new. 

(Inspecting it) 
Beautiful. 

TRINA 

(Simpering a little) 
It was a present. 

MAMA 

(Smiling) 
A present! Look, Lars. Trina has a present. 

19 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
PAPA 

(Feeling it) 
Is fine. 

(He puts Trivia's hat, coat and boa on the chest 
under the nmndovo) 

MAMA 

Jenny and Sigrid don't come with you, Trina? 

TRINA 

(Embarrassed) 
No, I ... I didn't tell them I was coming. I want to 
talk to you, Marta. 

MAMA 

(Smiling) 
So? Sit then, and we talk. 

TRINA 

(Nervously agitated) 
Could we talk alone? 

MAMA 

Alone? 

TRINA 

If you wouldn't mind. 

MAMA 

(Going to the stove) 
Children, you leave us alone a little. I call you. Dagmar, 
you go with Katrin. 

KATRIN 

(Protesting) 
Oh, but, Mama . . . 

20 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

{Firmly) 
Katrin, you take Dagmar! 

KATRIN 

Yes, Mama. 

(Pushing dagmar, resentfully) 
Come on. 

(The children go out back L.) 

MAMA 

Now— what is it, Trina? 

trina 

(Looking do<wn, embarrassed) 
Marta . . . 

MAMA 

(Helpfully) 

Yes? 

TRINA 

Oh, no, I can't say it. 

MAMA 

(Anxiously) 
Trina, what is it? 

TRINA 

It's . . . something very personal. 

MAMA 

You want Lars should go outside? 

TRINA 

Would you mind, Lars? Just for a minute? 

21 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
PAPA 

(Good-humor edly ) 
No, I go. I know what women's secrets are. 

( Teasing) 
As your Uncle Chris say— "Vomen! Pff!" 

MAMA 

You have your pipe, Lars? Is fine night. 

(papa takes out his pipe— then lays it down) 
What is it? 

PAPA 

I forget. I give up tobacco. 

MAMA 

Is still some tobacco in your pouch? 

(papa nods) 

Then you do not give up tobacco till you have finish. 
You give up more tobacco— not the tobacco you already 
have. 

PAPA 

Is not right, Marta. 

{He pats her, takes his pipe, and goes out L., 
standing outside the house, under the lamp-post, 
and looking up at the stars, smoking) 

MAMA 

So, Trina. Now. What is it? 

TRINA 

Marta. ... I want to get married. 

MAMA 

You mean . . . you want to get married, or there is 
someone you want to marry? 

22 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
TRINA 

There's someone I want to marry. 

mama 

Does he want to marry you? 

TRINA 

He says he does. 

MAMA 

(Delighted) 
Trina! Is wonderful! 

TRINA 

(Crying a little) 
I think it is. 

MAMA 

Who is? 

TRINA 

Mr. Thorkelson. 

MAMA 

From the Funeral Parlor? 

(trina nods, mama nods, speculatively, but 'with 
less enthusiasm) 

TRINA 

I know he isn't very handsome or ... or tall. I know it 
isn't what most people would think a very nice profes- 
sion, but . . . 

MAMA 

You love him, Trina? 

(trina nods ecstatically) 

23 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

Then is good. 

(She pats Trivia's hand) 

TRINA 

Marta, will you . . . will you help me tell the others? 

MAMA 

Oh . . . Jenny and Sigrid . . . they do not know? 

TRINA 

No. I was afraid they'd laugh at me. But if you tell 
them . . . 

MAMA 

Jenny will not like you tell me first. 

TRINA 

(Desperately) 
I can't help that. You've got to tell them not to laugh at 
me. If they laugh at me, I'll . . . I'll kill myself. 

MAMA 

(With decision) 
Jenny and Sigrid will not laugh. I promise you, Trina. 

TRINA 

Oh, thank you, Marta. And . . . Uncle Chris? 

MAMA 

(With some seriousness) 
Ah! 

TRINA 

Will you talk to him? 

MAMA 

It is Mr. Thorkelson who must talk to Uncle Chris. Al- 
ways it is the husband who must talk to the head of the 
family. 

24 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
TRINA 

Yes. I know, but . . . well, Uncle Chris is so very 
frightening. He's so big and black, and he shouts so. And 
Mr. Thorkelson is . . . well, kind of timid, really. 

MAMA 

{Gently) 
But, Trina, if he is to be your husband, he must learn not 
to be timid. You do not want husband should be timid. 
You are timid. Is not good when both are timid. 

(Then firmly) 
No! Jenny and Sigrid I speak to, but Mr. Thorkelson 
must go to Uncle Chris. 

PAPA 

(Re-enters the house) 
Marta, Trina, I do not want to interrupt your talk, but 
Jenny and Sigrid are coming. 

TRINA 

(Alarmed) 
Oh, dear! 

PAPA 

I see them get off the cable-car. They come up the hill. 

TRINA 

(In a flurry) 
I'd better go to your room for a minute. 

(She starts for the door, turns back, gets her 
things from the chest, and runs out, carrying 
them, back L. Meanwhile, mama has been whis- 
pering the news to papa) 

MAMA 

The coffee is ready— I get more cups. 

25 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

(During the above, aunts jenny and sigrid have 
entered from the wings L., front, jenny is a domi- 
neering -woman in her fifties; sigrid, whining and 
complaining) 

SIGRID 

(In the street) 
Wait, Jenny, I must get my breath. This hill kills me 
every time I climb it. 

JENNY 

You climbed bigger hills than that in the old country. 

SIGRID 

I was a girl in the old country. 

(They march to the door and knock— sigrid fol- 
lowing jenny) 

MAMA 

(Opening the door to them) 
Jenny. Sigrid. Is surprise. 

(To sigrid) 
Where's Ole? 

SIGRID 

Working. He's always working. I never see anything of 
him at all. 

MAMA 

(Crossing to the stove for coffee-pot) 
Is good to work. 

SIGRID 

It's good to see your husband once in a while, too. 

JENNY 

(No nonsense about her) 
Has Trina been here? 

26 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

Trina? 

JENNY 

She's gone somewhere. And she doesn't know anyone 
but you. ... 

MAMA 

That is what you think. 

JENNY 

What do you mean by that? 

MAMA 

Give Lars your coat. I give you some coffee. Then we 
talk about Trina. 

SIGRID 

(As papa helps njoith coats) 
She has been here? 

MAMA 

Yes, she has been here. 

(Pouring coffee and passing cups) 

JENNY 

What did Trina want? 

MAMA 

She want to talk to me. 

JENNY 

What about? 

MAMA 

Marriage. 

SIGRID 

What? 

27 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

(Pouring calmly) 
Marriage. 

(Passing Si grid's cup) 
Trina wants to get married. 

JENNY 

That's no news. Of course she wants to get married. 
Every old maid wants to get married. 

MAMA 

There is someone who wants to marry Trina. 

JENNY 

Who'd want to marry Trina? 

MAMA 

Mr. Thorkelson. 

sigrid 
Peter Thorkelson? Little Peter? 
(She gestures a midget) 

MAMA 

He is not so little. 

SIGRID 

He's hardly bigger than my Arne— and Arne is not ten 
yet. 

MAMA 

So he is hardly bigger than your Arne. Does every hus- 
band have to be big man? 

JENNY 

Trina's making it up. That happens with old maids, when 
they get to Trina's age. 

28 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

(Firmly) 
No, Jenny— it is true. Mr. Thorkelson wants to marry 
Trina. 

JENNY 

(Changing her tactics slightly) 
Mr. Thorkelson. She'd be the laughing stock. 
(She laughs) 

MAMA 

(Moving to her) 
Jenny, Trina is here. She will come in in a minute. This 
is serious for her. You will not laugh at her. 

JENNY 

I shall do what I please. 

MAMA 

No, Jenny, you will not. 

JENNY 

And why won't I? 

MAMA 

Because I will not let you. 

JENNY 

And how will you stop me? 

MAMA 

If you laugh at Trina, I will tell her of the time before 
your wedding when your husband try to run away. 

SIGRID 

What is that? 

JENNY 

Who told you that? 

29 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

I know. 

SIGRID 

(Intrigued) 
Erik . . . tried to run away? 

JENNY 

It's not true. 

MAMA 

Then you do not mind if I tell Trina. 

JENNY 

Uncle Ghris told you. 

SIGRID 

(Tenaciously) 
Tried to run away? 

MAMA 

It does not matter, Sigrid. Jenny will not laugh at Trina 
now. Nor will you! For if you laugh at her, I will tell of 
your wedding night with Ole, when you cry all the time, 
and he bring you home to Mother. 

PAPA 

(With sudden enjoyment) 
This I do not know! 

MAMA 

(Reprovingly) 
Is no need you should know. I do not tell these stories for 
spite— only so they do not laugh at Trina. Call her, Lars. 
You like more coffee, Jenny? Sigrid? 

(papa goes to the door back L., calls, "Trina" 
mama pours coffee for jenny, mr. hyde re- 

30 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

appears down front L., and lets himself into the 
house) 

MR. HYDE 

(Seeing company) 
Oh, I beg your pardon. I was not aware . . . 

MAMA 

Mr. Hyde, these are my sisters. 

MR. HYDE 

Enchanted, ladies. Madame. Madame. The Three Graces. 

(He boivs. sigrid giggles coyly. He goes to the 

door back L.) 
You will excuse me? 

MAMA 

Sure, Mr. Hyde. 

MR. HYDE 

I shall be in my room. 
(He goes out) 

JENNY 

So that's your famous boarder. Has he paid you his rent 
yet? Three months he's been here, hasn't he? 

MAMA 

Is hard to ask. Surely he will pay soon. 

JENNY 

(With a snort) 
Surely he won't! If I ran my boarding house the way 
you run this place . . . 

PAPA 

Maybe your boarders wouldn't always leave you. 

31 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
JENNY 

If Marta thinks she's going to get the warm coat she's 
always talking about out of that one . . . 

MAMA 

Jenny, Mr. Hyde is a gentleman. He reads to us aloud. 
Wonderful books . . . Longfellow, and Charles Dickens, 
and Fenimore Kipling. 

(trina steals back) 

MAMA 

(Seeing her hesitant in the doorway) 
Come in, Trina. The coffee is getting cold. 

(She pours a cup. There is a silence) 
I tell them. 

JENNY 

Why did you come to Marta first? 

PAPA 

She thought Marta would understand. 

JENNY 

Aren't Sigrid and I married women, too? 

PAPA 

You have been married longer than Marta. She think 
maybe you forget. 

JENNY 

What sort of a living does Mr. Thorkelson make? 

TRINA 

I ... I haven't asked. 

SIGRID 

Can he keep you? 

3 2 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
TRINA 

I don't think he would have asked me to marry him if he 
couldn't. 

JENNY 

Maybe he thinks you are going to keep him. 

MAMA 

(Warningly) 
Jenny! 

sigrid 

Maybe he thinks Trina will have a dowry like the girls 
at home. 

TRINA 

Well, why shouldn't I? You all had dowries. . . . 

JENNY 

We were married in Norway. And our parents were 
alive. Where would your dowry come from, I'd like to 
know? 

TRINA 

Uncle Chris. He's head of the family. 

JENNY 

And who will ask him? 

TRINA 

He won't need asking. When Mr. Thorkelson goes to see 
him ... 

JENNY 

Uncle Chris will eat him! 

SIGRID 

( Giggling maliciously ) 
Little Peter and Uncle Chris! 

33 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

(With meaning) 
Maybe Uncle Chris will tell hirn some family stories. He 
knows many, does Uncle Chris. 

(The aunts put down their cups, discomfited) 

JENNY 

(To change the subject) 
Where are the children? Aren't we going to see them 
before we go? 

PAPA 

Of course, I'll call them. 

(He goes to the door and does so, shouting) 
Children! Your Aunts are leaving! 

children's voices 

(Eagerly) 
Coming, Papa! 

JENNY 

You come with us, Trina? 

MAMA 

I think maybe Trina like to stay here and listen to Mr. 
Hyde read to us. You like, Trina? 

TRINA 

Well, if I wouldn't be in the way. I asked Mr. Thorkel- 
son to call for me here. He'll see me home. I'll help you 
with the coffee things. 

(She takes the tray of coffee cups and goes into 

the pantry) 

(katrin returns, hack L. She carries her diary, 
dagmar follows her, and behind them, Christine) 

34 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

KATRIN and DAGMAR 

(Curtseying) 
Good evening, Aunt Sigrid. Good evening, Aunt Jenny. 

(christine sketches a perfunctory curtsey with- 
out speaking) 

JENNY 

Where have you all been hiding yourselves? 

DAGMAR 

(Going into the pantry) 
We've been in Christine's boodwar. 

JENNY 

Her what? 

MAMA 

Christine makes the little closet into a boudoir. I give her 
those bead portieres, Jenny, that you lend us when we 
come from the old country. 

SIGRID 

And what does she do there? 

CHRISTINE 

(Impertinently) 
What people usually do in boudoirs. 

MAMA 

Christine, that is rude. It is her little place to herself. 

(nels enters, back L.) 

nels 

Hello, Aunt Sigrid. Hello, Aunt Jenny. 

SIGRID 

(Shaking hands) 
Good evening, Nels. My, how tall he is getting! 

35 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

(Proudly) 
Yes, is almost as tall as his Papa. 

SIGRID 

He looks to me as if he was outgrowing his strength. 
Dagmar was looking pale, too. 

(dagmar returns now, carrying the cat again) 

SIGRID 

(Jumping) 
Goodness, what a horrid-looking cat. 

DAGMAR 

She's not. She's beautiful. 

PAPA 

Is her new friend. She goes with Dagmar everywhere. 

CHRISTINE 

She does. First thing you know, she'll have the cat sleep- 
ing with her. 

DAGMAR 

(Eagerly) 
Oh, Mama, can I? Can I, Mama? 

JENNY 

Certainly not. Don't you know a cat draws breath from 
a sleeping child? You wouldn't want to wake up some 
morning smothered, would you? 

DAGMAR 

I wouldn't care. Elizabeth can have all my breath! 

(She blows into the cat's face) 
There! 

36 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
JENNY 

(Putting on gloves) 
Elizabeth— what a very silly name for a cat. 

NELS 

It's a very silly name for that cat. It's a Tom. 

MAMA 

Nels, how you know? 

NELS 

I looked! 

DAGMAR 

How can you tell? 

NELS 

You can. 

DAGMAR 

But how? 

MAMA 

(Quickly warning) 
Nels, you do not say how! 

NELS 

(To dagmar) 
So you'd better think up another name for him. 

DAGMAR 

I won't. He's Elizabeth. And he's going to stay Elizabeth. 

PAPA 

We could call him Uncle Elizabeth! 

DAGMAR 

(Laughing delightedly) 
Uncle Elizabeth! Do you hear, Elizabeth? You're called 
Uncle Elizabeth now! 

37 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
JENNY 

Such foolishness! Well, good-by, all. Marta. Lars. 

(Good-bys are exchanged all around, the children 
curtseying formally) 

MAMA 

Good-by, Jenny. Good-by, Sigrid. Nels, you go tell Mr. 
Hyde we are ready for the reading. 

(nels goes off, back L. The aunts leave and 'walk 
down L. mama stands in the doorway, waving 
good-by) 

SIGRID 

(As they go) 
Well, I never thought we'd live to see Trina get married. 

JENNY 

She's not married yet. She's got Uncle Chris to deal with 
first. 

(They disappear into wings L.) 

MAMA 

(Returning to the room and calling into the 

pantry ) 
Trina, they have gone. Dagmar, you put Elizabeth out 
for the night now. 

DAGMAR 

(Correcting her) 
Uncle Elizabeth! 

MAMA 

Uncle Elizabeth!! 

(dagmar goes out into the pantry with the cat. 

38 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

trina comes in as mr. hyde and nels return back 
L.) 
Mr. Hyde, this is my sister Trina. 

MR. HYDE 

(Bowing) 
Enchanted! 

MAMA 

(Seating herself R. of the table) 
Mr. Hyde reads to us "The Tales From Two Cities." Is 
a beautiful story. But sad. 

TRINA 

(Brightly) 
I like sad stories. 

(She gets out her handkerchief) 

(The whole family group themselves around the 
table, dagmar returning and seating herself on the 
floor below mama. mr. hyde takes the armchair 
L. of table, katrin is on the steps R. front) 

MR. HYDE 

Tonight, I would like to finish it. 

MAMA 

Is good. 

MR. HYDE 

Are you ready? 

CHILDREN 

Yes, please, Mr. Hyde. 

MR. HYDE 

I will go on from where we left off. 
(He starts to read) 

39 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

"In the black prison of the Conciergerie, the doomed of 
the day awaited their fate. They were in number as the 
weeks of the year. Fifty-two were to roll that afternoon 
on the life-tide of the City to the boundless, everlasting 
sea. ..." 

(The lights dim dovon slowly, leaving spots on 
katrin and mr. hyde only) 

KATRIN 

I don't think I shall ever forget that night. It was almost 
midnight when he came to the end, and none of us had 
noticed. 

MR. HYDE 

(Reading from the last page) 
"It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever 
done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have 
ever known." 

(He closes the book) 

"The End." 

» 

(The R. turntable revolves in again, katrin rises 
from the step, and crosses to her desk on the turn- 
table) 

KATRIN 

I wrote in my diary that night before I went to bed. 

(She reads aloud from it) 
"Tonight Mr. Hyde finished 'The Tale of Two Cities.' 
The closing chapters are indeed superb. How beautiful a 
thing is self-sacrifice. I wish there were someone / could 
die for." 

(She sits looking out front.) 
Mr. Hyde read us all kinds of books. He thrilled us with 
"Treasure Island," and terrified us with "The Hound of 

40 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

the Baskervilles." I can still remember the horror in his 
voice as he read. . . . 

MR. HYDE 

(Still on the main stage in his spot, reading) 
"Dr. Mortimer looked strangely at us for an instant, and 
his voice sank almost to a whisper as he answered: 'Mr. 
Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound! 9 " 

(He closes the book) 
We will continue tomorrow night. If you are interested. 

KATRIN 

(Looking out front) 
If we were interested! You couldn't have kept us from it. 
It meant a lot to Mama, too, because Nels stopped going 
nights to the street corner to hang about with the neigh- 
borhood boys. The night they got into trouble for 
breaking into Mr. Dillon's store, Nels was home with us. 
And sometimes Mr. Hyde read us poetry. "The Lady of 
the Lake" . . . and the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." 

MR. HYDE 

(Reading) 
"About, about, in reel and rout 
The death-fires danced at night. 
The water, like a witch's oils, 
Burnt green and blue and white." 

(His spot goes out, and the traveler curtains close 
on the kitchen scene) 

KATRIN 

There were many nights I couldn't sleep for the way he 
had set my imagination dancing. 

(Reading from her diary again) 

41 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

"What a wonderful thing is literature, transporting us to 
realms unknown." 

(To herself) 
And all the time my school teacher kept telling me that 
I ought to write about things I knew. I did write a piece 
for her once about Uncle Chris, and she said it wasn't 
nice to write like that about a member of one's own 
family. Papa called Mama's Uncle Chris a black Nor- 
wegian, because of his dark hair and fierce mustache, but 
there were others in the family who claimed that he was 
black in a different way. The Aunts, for example. 

(Spot goes up on L. front turntable, representing 
Jenny's kitchen, jenny and trina are discovered. 
jenny is rolling pastry, trina is crocheting) 

JENNY 

Black! I'll say he's black. Black in his heart. Cursing and 
swearing. . . . 

TRINA 

Marta says that's only because it hurts him to walk. 

JENNY 

Rubbish. I know all about his limp and the accident back 
in the old country— but has anyone ever heard him com- 
plain? Marta's always making excuses for him. 

TRINA 

I know . . . but he is good to the children. All those 
oranges he's always sending them. . . . 

JENNY 

Oranges! What good is oranges? Turn 'em yellow. 
They're the only things he's ever been known to give 
away, anyway. He's got other uses for his money. 

42 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
TRINA 

What you mean? 

JENNY 

Bottles! And that woman he lives with! 

TRINA 

He says she's his housekeeper. 

JENNY 

Well, he couldn't very well come right out and call her 
what she is, could he? Though / will one of these days. 
And to his face, too. 

(sigrid comes through the curtains C. She crosses 
to jenny and trina) 

SIGRID 

Jenny. Trina. What do you think? What do you think 
Uncle Chris has done now? 

TRINA 

What? 

JENNY 

Tell us. 

SIGRID 

You know my little Arne's knee— that fall he had two 
months ago? The man at the drugstore said it was only 
a bruise, but today it was hurting him again, so I left him 
home when I went to do the marketing. I asked Mrs. 
Schultz next door to keep an eye on him, and who should 
turn up, not ten minutes after I'd gone, but Uncle Chris. 
And what do you think? 

JENNY 

Well, tell us, if you're going to. Don't keep asking us. 

43 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
SIGRID 

He took one look at Arne's knee, bundled him into that 
rattletrap old automobile of his, and rushed him straight 
off to the hospital. I've just come from there . . . and 
what do you think? They've operated! They've got him 
in Plaster of Paris! 

JENNY 

Without consulting you? 

SIGRID 

It seems the doctor is a friend of his . . . that's why he 
did it. No, this time he's gone too far. To put a child of 
Arne's age through all that pain! They wouldn't even let 
me see Arne. I'm going to tell Uncle Chris exactly what 
I think of him. . . . 

JENNY 

That's right. 

SIGRID 

I'm going to tell him right now. 

(Weakening a little) 
Come with me, Jenny. 

J ENNY \4jj , 

Well, I . . . No, I can't leave my baking. 

SIGRID 

You must, Jenny. We must stand together. You come, 
too, Trina, and ask about your dowry. Make him give it 
to you. 

TRINA 

Oh, but . . . Marta said Mr. Thorkelson should do 
that. . . . 

44 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
JENNY 

Well, then, go and get Mr. Thorkelson. Go down to the 
mortuary and get him now. Sigrid's quite right. We girls 
have got to stand together! 

(Blackout. Turntable revolves out) 

KATRIN 

(At her desk) 
Nobody knew where Uncle Chris lived. That was part 
of the mystery about him. He used to roam up and down 
the state buying up farms and ranches that had gone to 
pieces, and bullying them back into prosperity. Then 
he'd sell at a profit and move on again. Two or three 
times a year he'd descend on the city in his automobile 
and come roaring and stamping into our house. 

(Her light dims) 

(The sound of a very old and noisy Ford car 
changing gears is heard off L. A grinding and 
screaming as it comes to a standstill. Then uncle 
chris' voice, shouting) 

UNCLE CHRIS' VOICE 

Marta! Lars! Children— vere are you? 

(The curtains part on the kitchen again. Outside 
in the street is Uncle Chris 1 cardan antique model. 
A woman is seated beside the empty driver's seat. 
uncle chris is knocking on the house door. He is 
an elderly, powerful, swarthy man with a limp. In 
the kitchen, nels and Christine are cowering) 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Marta! Lars! 

45 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
CHRISTINE 

(Scared) 
It's Uncle Chris. 

NELS 

(Equally so) 
I know. 

CHRISTINE 

What'll we do? 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Is nobody home? Hey, there— is nobody home? 
(Banging on the door) 

Hey— someone— answer the door. 

(He tries the door handle; it opens and he strides, 
limpingly, in. He has a strong accent, and uses the 
Norwegian pronunciation of the children's names.) 

So, vat is— you do not answer the door? You do not hear 

me calling? 

(The children cower silently) 

I say, you do not hear me calling? I do not call loud 
enough? 

CHRISTINE 

Y-yes, Uncle Chris. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Which yes? Yes, you do not hear me— or yes I do not 
call loud enough? 

NELS 

We heard you, Uncle Chris. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Then why you do not come? 

4 6 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
NELS 

We ... we were just going to. 

(katrin has left her desk and come up the steps) 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Let me look at you. You too, Katrine, do not stand there 
—come and let me look at you. 

{They line up as though -for inspection. He 
thumps nels between the shoulder blades) 

Stand tall! 

(They all straighten up) 

Um-hum. By the dresser, where the marks are. 

(nels goes to the wall by the dresser, uncle chris 
compares his mark with the previous one— and 
makes a new one on the wall, writing by it) 

Two inches. Two inches in . . . 

(Examining the date) 
Six months. Is good. Christine. 

(christine replaces nels) 
Show me your teeth. 

(She does so) 
You brush them goot? 

(She nods) 

Nils, there is a box of oranges in the automobile. You 
fetch them in. 

(nels goes out L. uncle chris measures Chris- 
tine) 

47 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
Where is the little von? Dagmar? 

KATRIN 

She's sick, Uncle Chris. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

(Arrested) 
Sick? What is the matter with her? 

KATRIN 

It's her ear. She's had an earache for two days. Bad ear- 
ache. Mama sent for the doctor. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Goot doctor? What he say? 

KATRIN 

He's in there now. 

(She points off, back L. Meanwhile Christine has 
remained standing by the wall, afraid to move) 

UNCLE CHRIS 

I go in. 

(He starts to the door back L., but mama and dr. 
johnson come into the room as he does so. During 
this nels has gone to the car, and with nervous 
smiles at the woman seated by the driver's seat, has 
heaved out a huge box of oranges. He returns with 
the oranges during the ensuing scene) 

MAMA 

(Greeting him) 
Uncle Chris. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

How is with Dagmar? 

MAMA 

Is bad. Doctor, this is my Uncle, Mr. Halvorsen. 



4 8 



_ 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
DOCTOR 

How do you do, sir? 

UNCLE CHRIS 

What is with the child? 

DOCTOR 

We must get her to a hospital. At once. We'll have to 
operate. 

MAMA 

Operate? 

DOCTOR 

I'm afraid so. 

MAMA 

Can wait? Until my husband comes home from work? 

DOCTOR 

I'm afraid not. Her best chance is for us to operate im- 
mediately. 

MAMA 

(After a second) 
We go. 

(She goes to the dresser for the Little Bank) 

UNCLE CHRIS 

(Who has watched her decision with approval, 
turns to the doctor) 
What is with the child? 

DOCTOR 

I'm afraid it's a mastoid. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Ah . . . then you operate immediately. 

49 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
DOCTOR 

(Resenting this) 
That's what I said. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Immediately! 

MAMA 

(Who has poured the contents of the Little Bank 
onto the table) 
Doctor ... is enough? 

DOCTOR 

I was thinking of the County Hospital. 

MAMA 

No. No. We pay. Is enough? 

KATRIN 

If there isn't, we can go to the Bank. 

CHRISTINE 

We've got a Bank Account. 

MAMA 

Is enough without we go to the Bank, Doctor? My hus- 
band is carpenter. Make good money. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

If there is need of money, I pay. 

DOCTOR 

(Mainly in dislike of Uncle Chris) 
It'll be all right. We'll take her to the Clinic. You pay 
what you can afford. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Goot. Goot. I have a patient there already. My nephew, 
Arne. They operate this morning on his knee. 

50 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
DOCTOR 

Are you a physician, sir? 

UNCLE CHRIS 

I am better physician than most doctors. Nils, there, my 
other nephew, he become doctor when he grow up. 

(nels looks up, surprised) 

DOCTOR 

(Chillily) 
Oh, indeed . . . very interesting. Well, now, if you will 
have the child at the Clinic in . . . shall we say an hour's 
time. . . . 

UNCLE CHRIS 

The child will be at the Clinic in ten minutes' time. I haf 
my automobile. 

DOCTOR 

I can hardly make arrangements in ten minutes. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

/ make arrangements. I know doctors. 

MAMA 

Uncle Chris, Dr. Johnson arrange. He is good doctor. 

DOCTOR 

(Ironically) 
Thank you, Madam. 

MAMA 

You go, Doctor. We come. 

DOCTOR 

Very well, in an hour, then. And Dagmar will be well 
taken care of, I promise you. I will do the operation my- 
self. 

51 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

UNCLE CHRIS 

I watch. 

DOCTOR 

You will do no such thing, sir. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Always I watch operations. I am head of family. 

DOCTOR 

I allow no one to attend my operations. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Are so bad? 

DOCTOR 

(To mama) 
Mrs. Hanson, if I am to undertake this operation and the 
care of your child, it must be on the strict understanding 
that this gentleman does not come near either me or my 
patient. 

MAMA 

Yes, Doctor, I talk to him. . . . You go to hospital now, 
please. 

DOCTOR 

Very well. But you understand . . . nowhere near me, 
or I withdraw from the case. 
(He goes) 

UNCLE CHRIS 

I go see Dagmar. 

MAMA 

Wait. Uncle Chris, is kind of you, but Dagmar is sick. 
You frighten her. 

5 2 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
UNCLE CHRIS 

I frighten her? 

MAMA 

Yes, Uncle Chris. You frighten everyone. . . . 

UNCLE CHRIS 

{Amazed) 
I?? 

MAMA 

Everyone but me. Even the girls. . . . Jenny, Sigrid, 
Trina . . . they are frightened of you. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

The girls! Vomen! PrT! 

MAMA 

And the children, too. So Nels and I get Dagmar. You 
drive us to hospital in your automobile, but you do not 
frighten Dagmar. And you leave Doctor alone. Dr. John- 
son is -fine doctor. You come with me, Nels. You carry 
Dagmar. 

(nels and mama go out back L. uncle chris 
stands in amazement and puzzlement. The two 
girls watch him, hardly daring to move) 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Is true? I frighten you? Christine . . . Katrine . . . you 
are frightened of me? Come, I ask you. Tell me the 
truth. You are frightened of me? 

KATRIN 

{Tremulously) 
A ... a little, Uncle Chris. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

No? And you, Christine? 

53 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
CHRISTINE 

Y . . . yes, Uncle Chris. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

But Nils . . . Nils is a boy ... he is not frightened? 

CHRISTINE 

Not . . . not as much as we are. . . . 

UNCLE CHRIS 

But he is frightened? 

CHRISTINE 

Yes, Uncle Chris. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

But, why? What is there to be frightened of? I am your 
Uncle Chris . . . why do I frighten you? 

CHRISTINE 

I don't know. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

But that is bad. Very bad. The Aunts, yes, I like to 
frighten them. 

(the girls giggle) 

That makes you laugh. You do not like the Aunts? Come, 
tell me. You do not like the Aunts? Say! 

KATRIN 

Not . . . very much, Uncle Chris. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

And which do you not like the most? Jenny . . . Sigrid 
. . . Trina. . . . Tell me— huh? 

KATRIN 

I think I like Aunt Jenny least. She's so ... so bossy. 
54 






I REMEMBER MAMA 
CHRISTINE 

I can't stand Aunt Sigrid. Always whining and complain- 
ing. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

(With a great roar of laughter) 
Is good. Jenny, bossy. Sigrid, whining. Is true! But your 
Mama, she is different. And she cook goot. The Aunts, 
they cannot cook at all. Only you do not tell your Mama 
we have talked of them so. It is a secret, for us. Then 
you cannot be frightened of me any more . . . when we 
have secret. I tell you my secret, too. / do not like the 
Aunts. And so that they do not bother me, I frighten 
them and shout at them. You I do not shout at if you are 
goot children, and clean your teeth goot, and eat your 
oranges. 

(He takes out a snuff-box and partakes of its con- 
tents) 

(On the cue "You I do not shout at" the posse of 
aunts appears, in outdoor clothes, accompanied 
by mr. thorkelson, a terrified little man. They 
come in down L. and start up to the house) 

SIGRID 

(Stopping in the street) 
Jenny. Do you see what I see? A woman, in his automo- 
bile. 

JENNY 

How shameful! 

SIGRID 

Ought we to bow? 

55 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
JENNY 

Bow? To a woman like that? We cut her. That's what 

we do. I'll show you. 

(She strides to the front door, ignoring the woman 
in the car, and enters the house. The others fol- 
low) 

JENNY 

(Entering) 
Uncle Chris, Sigrid has something to say to you. 

SIGRID 

(With false bravery) 
Uncle Chris, you took Arne to the hospital. . . . 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Yes, I take Arne to the hospital. And now we take Dag- 
mar to the hospital, so you do not clutter up the place. 

JENNY 

What's the matter with Dagmar? 

CHRISTINE 

It's her ear. Dr. Johnson's going to operate. 

SIGRID 

(Catching her favorite word) 
Operate? This is some more of Uncle Chris' doings. Did 
you hear what he did to Arne? 

UNCLE CHRIS 

(Turning on her) 
Sigrid, you are a whining old fool, and you get out of 
here. . . . 

SIGRID 

(Deflating) 
We'd better go, Jenny. . . » 

56 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
JENNY 

(Stoutly) 
No . . . there has been enough of these high-handed 
goings on. . . . 

UNCLE CHRIS 

And you, Jenny . . . you are a bossy old fool, and you 
get out of here, too, and we take Dagmar to hospital. 

(nels enters, carrying dagmar in his arms, 
"wrapped in a blanket) 

You got her goot, Nils? 

nels 
Sure, Uncle Chris. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

We go. 

JENNY 

(Getting between them and the door) 
No! You are going to hear me out. 

( Weakening) 
That is, you are going to hear Sigrid out. . . . 

UNCLE CHRIS 

If you do not get out of the way of the door before I 
count three, I trow you out. And Sigrid, too, as big as 
she is. Von. . . . 

( sigrid moves) 

Two. . . . 

(jenny moves. He looks back at the children with 
a wink and a smile) 

Is goot! You put her in back of the car, Nils. 

57 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

(nels goes out, carrying dagmar, and lifts her into 
the car. uncle chris follows and starts cranking) 

TRINA 

(Running to the door after him, with mr. thor- 

kelson) 
But, Uncle Chris, I want to introduce Mr. Thor kel- 
son. . . . 

(But uncle chris ignore s her, continuing to crank. 
She returns crestfallen into the room with mr. 
thorkelson. mama re-enter s hack L., wearing hat 
and coat and carrying a cheap little overnight 
case) 

MAMA 

Jenny . . . Trina, we go to hospital. 

(She goes to katrin and Christine) 
You will be good children until Mama comes home? 

THE GIRLS 

Sure, Mama. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

(Calling from the car) 
Marta, we go! 

MAMA 

(Calling back) 
I come! 

(She turns to the children again) 
There is milk in the cooler, and fruit and cookies for your 
lunch. 

CHRISTINE 

We'll be all right, Mama. Don't worry. 

58 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

I go now. 

(She starts for the door) 

SIGRID 

(Stopping her) 
Marta! 

MAMA 

What is it? 

SIGRID 

You can't go in his automobile. 

MAMA 

Why not? 

UNCLE CHRIS 

(Calling again) 
Marta, we go! 

MAMA 

I come! 

SIGRID 

Because . . . because she's in it. The . . . the woman! 

MAMA 

So it will kill me, or Dagmar, if we sit in the automobile 
with her? I have see her. She looks nice woman. 

(Calling off, as she goes) 
I come! 

UNCLE CHRIS 

We go! 

(She climbs into the rear of the car, which backs 
noisily off during the next speeches) 

59 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MR. THORKELSON 

{In a low "whisper to trina) 
Is that woman his wife? 

TRINA 

{Nervously) 
Yes. . . . 

MR. THORKELSON 

Yes? 

TRINA 

{Whispering back, loudly) 
No! 

JENNY 

{TO THE GIRLS) 

Don't stand there gaping like that, girls. 
{She shoos them into the pantry) 
Go away! Go away! 

(the girls go. jenny turns and sees the disappear- 
ing car through the open door.) 

Oh! They've gone! We go after them! Sigrid, you lead 

the way! 

{She gives sigrid a push and the four go out, "with 
jenny dragging mr. thorkelson, and trina fol- 
lowing. Blackout. The travelers close) 

{Spot on R. turntable, representing a kind of 
closet-room. Roller-skates hanging on the wall. 
katrin and Christine are seated on a small kitchen 
stepladder with glasses of milk, and cookies on 
plates) 

KATRIN 

How long have they been gone now? 
60 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
CHRISTINE 

About three hours. And I wish you wouldn't keep asking 
that. 

KATRIN 

How long do operations take? I heard Aunt Sigrid tell- 
ing about Mrs. Bergman who was five hours on the table. 

CHRISTINE 

Aunt Sigrid's friends always have everything worse than 
anyone else. And it gets worse each time she tells it, too. 

( katrin smiles— drinks some milk and eats a 
cookie) 

KATRIN 

(With a certain melancholy enjoyment) 
The house feels lonesome, doesn't it— without Mama? It's 
like in a book. "The sisters sat huddled in the empty 
house, waiting for the verdict that was to spell life or 
death to the little family." 

CHRISTINE 

Oh, don't talk such nonsense. 

KATRIN 

It's not nonsense. 

CHRISTINE 

It is, too. In the first place, we're not a little family. 
We're a big one. And who said anything about life or 
death, anyway? Always trying to make everything so 
dramatic! 

KATRIN 

Well, it is dramatic. 

61 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
CHRISTINE 

It's not. It's just . . . well, worrying. But you don't have 
to make a tragedy out of it. 

(Pause) 

KATRIN 

You're not eating anything. 

CHRISTINE 

I know that. 

KATRIN 

You're not drinking your milk, either. Aren't you hun- 
gry? 

CHRISTINE 

No. And you wouldn't be, either, if you'd any feeling 
for Mama and Dagmar, instead of just heartlessly sitting 
there eating and enjoying making a story out of it. 

KATRIN 

Oh, Chris, I'm not heartless. I do have feeling for them. 
I can't help it if it goes into words like that. Everything 
always does with me. But it doesn't mean I don't feel it. 
And I think we ought to eat. I think Mama would want 
us to. 

(Pause. Christine hesitates a moment, then takes a 
bite of a cookie. They both eat in silence. The 
light dims on them, and the turntable revolves 
out) 

The travelers part on the hospital corridor. A main 
back flat representing the wall, running diagonally 
up from the front of the main stage L. towards the 
back. Down front L. is a bench, on which mama 
and nels are sitting, holding hands, looking off. 

62 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

Below the bench is the elevator, and above the 
bench, set back a little, is a closet for brooms and 
mops, etc. The reception desk, at which a nurse 
is sitting, is R.C., towards the front. The wall goes 
up into darkness, and behind the nurse's desk is 
darkness. 

As the curtains open, there is a hubbub down 
front by the nurse's desk, where the aunts are 
haranguing uncle chris. mr. thorkelson stands 
slightly in back of them) 

SIGRID 

But, Uncle Chris, I tell you I must see him! 

UNCLE CHRIS 

{Storming) 
You don't understand English? No visitors for twenty- 
four hours. 

SIGRID 

But you've seen him. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

I am not visitor. I am exception. 

SIGRID 

Well, then, his mother should be an exception, too. I'll 
see the doctor. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

/ have seen doctor. I have told him you are not goot for 
Arne. 

SIGRID 

Not good for my own son. . . . 

<5 3 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
UNCLE CHRIS 

Not goot at all. You cry over him. I go now. 

(He starts to do so, but jenny pushes trina for- 
ward) 

TRINA 

(With desperate courage) 
Uncle Chris . . . Uncle Chris ... I wust speak to you. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

I have business. 

TRINA 

But, Uncle Chris. ... I want to get married. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Well, then, get married. 

(He starts off again) 

TRINA 

No, wait, I ... I want to marry Mr. Thorkelson. Here. 

(She produces him from behind her) 
Peter, this is Uncle Chris. Uncle Chris, this is Mr. Thor- 
kelson. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

(Staring at him) 
So? 

MR. THORKELSON 

How are you, sir? 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Busy. 

(He turns again) 

TRINA 

Please, Uncle Chris. . . • 



6 4 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
UNCLE CHRIS 

What is? You want to marry him? All right, marry him. 
I have other things to think about. 

TRINA 

{Eagerly) 
Then . . . then you give your permission? 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Yes, I give my permission. If you want to be a fool, I 
cannot stop you. 

TRINA 

(Gratefully) 
Oh, thank you, Uncle Chris. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

So. Is all? 

TRINA 

(Anxious to escape) 
Yes, I think is all. 

JENNY 

(Firmly) 
No!! 

UNCLE CHRIS 

No? 

(mr. thorkelson is pushed -forward again) 

MR. THORKELSON 

Well, there . . . there was a little something else. You 
see, Trina mentioned . . . well, in the old country it was 
always usual . . . and after all, we do all come from the 
old country. . . . 

UNCLE CHRIS 

What is it? What you want? 

65 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MR. THORKELSON 

Well, it's a question of Trina's . . . well, not to mince 
matters . . . her dowry. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

{Shouting) 
Her what? 

MR. THORKELSON 

(Very faintly) 
Her dowry. . . 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Ah. Her dowry. Trina wants a dowry. She is forty-two 
years old. . . . 

TRINA 

(Interrupting) 
No, Uncle Chris. . . . 

UNCLE CHRIS 

(Without pausing) 
And it is not enough she gets husband. She must have 
dowry. 

NURSE 

(Who has been trying to interrupt, now bangs on 

her desk) 
please! Would you mind going and discussing your fam- 
ily matters somewhere else? This is a hospital, not a mar- 
riage bureau! 

UNCLE CHRIS 

(After glaring at the nurse, turns to mr. thorkel- 
son) 
You come into waiting room. I talk to you about dowry. 
(He strides off into the darkness behind the nurse's 

66 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

desk. mr. thorkelson, with an appealing look 
back at trina, follows him. The aunts now re- 
member mama, sitting on the bench, and cross to 
her) 

JENNY 

Did you hear that, Marta? 

MAMA 

(Out of a trance) 
What? 

JENNY 

Uncle Chris. 

MAMA 

No, I do not hear. I wait for doctor. Is two hours since 
they take Dagmar to operating room. More. 

SIGRID 

Two hours? That's nothing! When Mrs. Bergman had 
her gall bladder removed she was six hours on the table. 

MAMA 

Sigrid, I do not want to hear about Mrs. Bergman. I do 
not want to hear about anything. I wait for doctor. 
Please, you go away now. You come this evening. 

TRINA 

But, Marta, you can't stay here all by yourself. 

MAMA 

I have Nels. Please, Trina ... I wait for doctor . . . 
you go now. 

JENNY 

We go. 

6 7 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
TRINA 

Oh, but I must wait for Peter and Uncle Chris. . . . 

JENNY 

We'll go next door and have some coffee. Sigrid, do you 
have money? 

SIGRID 

Yes, I ... I have a little. 

JENNY 

Good. Then I treat you. We'll be next door if you want 
us, Marta. 

(mama nods without looking at them, her eyes 
still fixed on the elevator door. The aunts leave, 
going down the steps from the stage as though 
they were the hospital steps, and off L. 

For a moment, the stage is quiet. Then a scrub- 
woman enters from down R., carrying a mop and 
pail which she puts into the closet, and then leaves. 
The elevator door opens and a doctor in white 
coat comes out, followed by an orderly, carrying 
a tray of dressings. They disappear up R. behind 
the desk, mama rises, agitatedly, looking after 
them. Then dr. johnson returns from R. front, 
carrying his hat and bag. He sees mama and 
crosses to her, C.) 

doctor 

Oh, Mrs. Hanson. . . . 

MAMA 

Doctor. . . . 

DOCTOR 

Well, Dagmar's fine. She came through it beautifully. 
She's back in bed now, sleeping off the anesthetic. 

68 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

Thank you, Doctor. 

(She shakes hands ivith him) 

DOCTOR 

You're very welcome. 

MAMA 

Is good of you, Doctor. 

(She shakes hands with him again) 
Where is she? I go to her now. 

DOCTOR 

Oh, I'm sorry, but I'm afraid that's against the rules. You 
shall see her tomorrow. 

MAMA 

Tomorrow? But, Doctor, she is so little. When she wakes 
she will be frightened. 

DOCTOR 

The nurses will take care of her. Excellent care. You 
needn't worry. You see, for the first twenty-four hours, 
clinic patients aren't allowed to see visitors. The wards 
must be kept quiet. 

MAMA 

I will not make a sound. 

DOCTOR 

I'm very sorry. Tomorrow. And now . . . 

(He glances at his watch) 
Good afternoon. 

(He puts on his hat and goes out L., down the 

steps and off) 

(mama stands still a mommt, looking after him) 

6 9 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

Come, Nels. We go find Dagmar. 

NELS 

But, Mama, the doctor said . . . 

MAMA 

We find Dagmar. 

(She looks vaguely around her. Then goes to the 

nurse's desk) 
You tell me, please, where I can find my daughter? 

NURSE 

What name? 

MAMA 

Dagmar. 

NELS 

Dagmar Hanson. 

NURSE 

(Looking at her record book) 
Hanson, Ward A. Along there. 

(She points upstage, mama starts to go up) 
Oh, just a moment. 

(mama returns) 
Wrien did she come in? 

MAMA 

This morning. They just finish operation. 

NURSE 

Oh, well, then I'm afraid you can't see her today. No 
visitors for the first twenty-four hours. 

70 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

Am not visitor. I am her Mama. 

NURSE 

I'm sorry, but it's against the rules. 

MAMA 

Just for one minute. Please. 

NURSE 

I'm sorry. It's against the rules. 

(mama stands staring, nels touches her arm. She 
looks at him, nods, trying to smile, then tarns and 
"walks with him to L. and down the steps) 

MAMA 

We must think of some way. 

nels 
Mama, they'll let you see her tomorrow. They said so. 

MAMA 

If I don't see her today how will I know that all is well 
with her? What can I tell Papa when he comes home 
from work? 

NELS 

The nurses will look after her, Mama. Would you like 
to come next door for some coffee? 

MAMA 

(Shaking her head) 
We go home. We have coffee at home. But I must see 
Dagmar today. 

(She plods off L. with nels) (The travelers close) 

(Spot goes up on R. turntable, uncle chris and 
mr. thorkelson are seated on a bench and chair, 

71 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

as in a waiting-room. A table with a potted plant 
is between them. A clock on the wall points to 
2:30) 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Well, it comes then to this. You love my niece, Trina? 

(mr. thorkelson, very scared, gulps and nods) 
You want to marry her? 

(mr. thorkelson nods again) 
You are in position to support her? 

(mr. thorkelson nods again) 
Why, then, you want dowry? 

(No answer. He shouts) 
What for you want dowry? 

MR. THORKELSON 

Well . . . well, it would be a nice help. And it is cus- 
tomary. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Is not customary. Who give dowries? Parents. Why? 
Because they are so glad they will not have to support 
their daughters any more, they pay money. I do not sup- 
port Trina. I do not care if Trina gets married. Wriy 
then should I pay to have her married? 

MR. THORKELSON 

I never thought of it like that. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Is insult to girl to pay dowry. If I do not give dowry, 
will you still marry Trina? 

72 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MR. THORKELSON 

I ... I don't know. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

You don't know? You don't know?? You think I let 
Trina marry a man who will not take her without 
dowry? 

MR. THORKELSON 

No, I suppose you wouldn't. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

What kind of man would that be? I ask you, what kind 
of man would that be? 

MR. THORKELSON 

(Fascinated— helpless) 
Well, not a very nice kind of man. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

And are you that kind of man? 

MR. THORKELSON 

I ... I don't think so. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

(Conclusively) 
Then you don't want dowry! ! 

MR. THORKELSON 

(Giving up) 
No, I ... I guess I don't. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

(Slapping his back) 
Goot. Goot. You are goot man. I like you. I give you my 

73 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

blessing. And I send you vedding present. I send you box 

of oranges! 

(While he is boisterously shaking Mr. Thorkel- 
son's hand, blackout. Turntable revolves out) 

(The curtains open on the kitchen. It is empty. 
mama and nels come up the hill from the L. and 
let themselves into the house. There is silence as 
they take off their hats and coats) 

MAMA 

(After a moment) 
Where are the girls? 

NELS 

I guess they're upstairs. 

(Goes to door back L. and calls) 
Chris! Katrin! 

girls' voices 
Coming! 

NELS 

Shall I make you some coffee? 
(mama shakes her head) 
You said you'd have coffee when you got home. 

MAMA 

Later. First I must think. 

NELS 

Mama, please don't worry like that. Dagmar's all right. 
You know she's all right. 

(the girls come in back L.) 

74 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

CHRISTINE 

(Trying to be casual) 
Well, Mama, everything all right? 

mama 

(Nodding) 
Is all right. You have eaten? 

KATRIN 

Yes, Mama. 

MAMA 

You drink your milk? 

CHRISTINE 

Yes, Mama. 

MAMA 

Is good. 

CHRISTINE 

(Seeing her face) 
Mama, something's the matter. 

KATRIN 

( Over-dramatic ally ) 
Mama, Dagmar's not—? She isn't—? Mama! 

MAMA 

No, Dagmar is fine. The doctor say she is fine. 

(She rises) 
What is time? 

NELS 

It's three o'clock. 

MAMA 

Three hours till Papa come. 

(She looks arozmd and then goes slowly into the 
pantry, back R.) 

IS 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
KATRIN 

Nels, what is it? There is something the matter. 

NELS 

They wouldn't let Mama see Dagmar. It's a rule of the 
hospital. 

CHRISTINE 

But Dagmar's all right? 

NELS 

Oh, yes, she's all right. 

CHRISTINE 

(Impatiently) 
Well, then . . . ! 

NELS 

But Mama's very upset. She started talking to me in Nor- 
wegian in the street-car. 

KATRIN 

(Emotionally) 
What can we do? 

CHRISTINE 

(Coldly) 
You can't do anything. When will they let her see Dag- 
mar? 

NELS 

Tomorrow. 

CHRISTINE 

Well, then, we'll just have to wait till tomorrow. 

KATRIN 

Chris, how can you be so callous? Can't you see that 
Mama's heart is breaking? 

7 6 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
CHRISTINE 

No, I can't. And you can't, either. People's hearts don't 
break. 

KATRIN 

They do, too. 

CHRISTINE 

Only in books. 

(mama comes back; she wears an apron, and car- 
ries a scrub brush and a bucket of hot water) 

Why, Mama, what are you going to do? . 

MAMA 

I scrub the floor. 

(She gets down on her knees) 

CHRISTINE 

But you scrubbed it yesterday. 

MAMA 

I scrub it again. 

(She starts to do so) 

KATRIN 

But, Mama . . . 

MAMA 

(Bending low) 
Comes a time when you've got to get down on your 
knees. 

KATRIN 

(To Christine) 
Now do you believe me? 

(christine, suddenly unendurably moved, turns 
and rushes from the room) 

77 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
NELS 

Mama, don't. Please don't. You must be tired. 

KATRIN 

(Strangely) 
Let her alone, Nels. 

(They stand in silence "watching mama scrub. 
Suddenly she stops) 

What is it, Mama? What is it? 

MAMA 

(Sitting back on her haunches) 
I think of something! 

(Slowly) 
I think I think of something! 

(The lights dim and the curtains close on the 
kitchen) 

(From down front L. uncle chris' voice singing. 
The lights slowly come up on the L. turntable, 
showing arne (a child of about eight) in a hospital 
bed, with uncle chris beside him) 

UNCLE CHRIS 

(Singing) 
"Ten t'ousand Svedes vent t'rough de veeds 

At de battle of Coppen-hagen. 
Ten t'ousand Svedes vent t'rough de veeds 

Chasing vun Nor-ve-gan!" 

ARNE 

Uncle Chris! 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Yes, Arne? 

78 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
ARNE 

Uncle Chris, does it have to hurt like this? 

UNCLE CHRIS 

If you vant it to be veil, and not to valk always like 
Uncle Chris, it does ... for a little. Is very bad? 

ARNE 

It is . . . kinda. . . . Oo— oo . . . ! 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Arne, don't you know any svear vords? 

ARNE 

W-what? 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Don't you know any svear vords? 

ARNE 

N-no, Uncle Chris. Not real ones. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Then I tell you two fine vons to use when pain is bad. 
Are "Damn" and "Damittohell." You say them? 

ARNE 

N-now? 

UNCLE CHRIS 

No, not now. When pain comes again. You say them 
then. They help plenty. I know. I haf pain, too. I say 
them all the time. And if pain is very bad, you say, 
"Goddamittohell." But only if is very bad. Is bad now? 

ARNE 

No, it's . . . it's a little better. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

You sleep some now, maybe? 

79 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
ARNE 

I'll try. Will . . . will you stay here, Uncle Chris? 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Sure. Sure. I stay here. You are not frightened of Uncle 
Chris? 

ARNE 

No. Not any more. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Goot. Goot. You like I sing some more? 

ARNE 

If you wouldn't mind. But maybe something a little . . . 
well, quieter. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

{Tenderly) 
Sure. Sure. 

(He begins quietly to sing a Norwegian lullaby; in 
the midst, arne cries out) 

ARNE 

Oo— oo. . . . Oh, damn. Damn. Damittohell! 

UNCLE CHRIS 

(Delighted) 
Goot! It helps— eh? 

ARNE 

(With pleased surprise) 
Yes— yes. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Then you sleep some! 

(He fixes Arne's pillows for him:, and resumes the 
lullaby, seated on his chair beside the bed. After 

80 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

another verse, he leans over, assuring himself that 
the child is asleep, and then very quietly, "without 
interrupting his singing, takes a flask from his 
pocket and lifts it to his lips, as the light dims. The 
table revolves out) 

{The curtains part on the hospital corridor again. 
There is a different nurse now at the reception 
desk, talking on the telephone as mama and katrin 
come in from L. and up the steps) 



MAMA 



(As they come up, in an undertone) 
Is not the same nurse. Katrin, you take my hat and coat. 
(She takes them off, revealing that she still wears 
her apron) 

KATRIN 

But, Mama, won't they . . . 

MAMA 

(Interrupting, finger to lips) 
Ssh! You let me go ahead. You wait on bench for me. 
(She goes to the closet door above the bench and 
opens it. katrin stares after her in trepidation. 
mama takes out a damp mop and pail, and gets 
down on her knees in front of the nurse's desk, 
starting to clean the floor. The nurse looks up. 
mama catches her eye) 

mama 

(Brightly) 
Very dirty floors. 

NURSE 

Yes, I'm glad they've finally decided to clean them. 
Aren't you working late? 

Bi 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

{Quickly, lowering her head) 
Floors need cleaning. 

(She pushes her way, crawling on hands and 
knees, up behind the desk, and disappears up the 
corridor, still scrubbing, katrin steals to the 
bench, where she sits, still clutching MamcHs hat 
and coat, looking interestedly around her. The 
light dims, leaving her in a single spot, as she starts 
to talk to herself) 

KATRIN 

(To herself) 
"The Hospital" ... A poem by Katrin Hanson. 

(She starts to improvise) 
"She waited, fearful, in the hall, 
And held her bated breath." 

Breath— yes, that'll rhyme with death. 
(She repeats the first two lines) 

"She waited fearful in the hall 

And held her bated breath. 

She trembled at the least footfall, 

And kept her mind on death." 

(She gets a piece of paper and pencil from her 
pocket and begins to scribble, as a nurse comes 
out of the elevator, carrying some charts, which 
she takes to the desk, and then goes out down R. 
katrin goes on with her poem) 

"Ah, God, 'twas agony to wait. 

To wait and watch and wonder. . . ." 

Wonder— under— bunder— funder— sunder. Sunder! 
(Nods to herself and goes on again) 

82 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

"To wait and watch and wonder, 
About her infant sister's fate, 
If Death's life's bonds would sunder." 

(Then to herself again, looking front) 
That's beautiful. Yes, but it isn't true. Dagmar isn't dy- 
ing. It's funny— I don't want her to die— and yet when 
Mama said she was all right, I was almost— well, almost 
disappointed. It wasn't exciting any more. Maybe Chris- 
tine's right, and I haven't any heart. How awful! "The 
girl without a heart." That'd be a nice title for a story. 
"The girl without a heart sat in the hospital corridor. . . ." 

(The lights come up again as uncle chris appears, 
up R. behind the desk. He 'meats his hat and is 
more than a little drunk. He sees katrin) 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Katrine! What you do here? 

(He sits on the bench beside her) 

KATRIN 

(Nervously) 
I'm waiting for Mama. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Where is she? 

KATRIN 

(Scared) 
I ... I don't know. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

What you mean . . . you don't know? 

KATRIN 

(Whispering) 
I think ... I think she's seeing Dagmar. 

8 3 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
UNCLE CHRIS 

{Shaking his head) 
Is first day. They do not allow visitors first day. 

KATRIN 

(Trying to make him aware of the nurse) 
I know. But I think that's where she is. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Where is Dagmar? 

KATRIN 

I don't know. 

(uncle chris rises and goes to the nurse at the 
desk) 

UNCLE CHRIS 

In what room is my great-niece, Dagmar Hanson? 

nurse 

(Looking at her book) 
Hanson . . . Hanson . . . when did she come in? 

UNCLE CHRIS 

This morning. 

NURSE 

Oh, yes. Were you wanting to see her? 

UNCLE CHRIS 

What room is she in? 

NURSE 

I asked were you wanting to see her. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

And / ask what room she is in. 

NURSE 

We don't allow visitors the first day. 

8 4 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
UNCLE CHRIS 

Have I said I vant to visit her? I ask what room she is in, 

NURSE 

Are you by any chance, Mr. . . . 

(Looking at her book) 
Halvorsen? 

UNCLE CHRIS 

(Proudly, and correcting her pronunciation) 
Christopher Halvorsen. 

NURSE 

Did you say you were her uncle? 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Her great-uncle. 

NURSE 

Well, then, I'm afraid I can't tell you anything about her. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Why not? 

NURSE 

Orders. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Whose orders? 

NURSE 

Dr. Johnson's. There's a special note here. Patient's uncle, 
Mr. Halvorsen, not to be admitted or given information 
under any circumstances. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

(After a moment's angry stupefaction) 
Goddamittohell! 

(He strides away down L., taking out his flask, and 

85 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

shaking it, only to find it empty, mama returns 
from up R., carrying the mop and pail, "walking 
now and smiling triumphantly) 

MAMA 

(To the nurse) 
Thank you. 

(She replaces the mop and pail in the closet, and 

then sees uncle chris) 
Uncle Chris, Dagmar is fine! 

UNCLE CHRIS 

(Coming back to her, amazed) 
You see her? 

MAMA 

Sure, Uncle Chris, I see her. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

(Reiterating, incredulous) 
You see Dagmar? ! 

MAMA 

Sure. 

(She takes her hat from katrin and starts to put it 

on) 
Is fine hospital. But such floors! A mop is never good. 
Floors should be scrubbed with a brush. We go home. 
Uncle Chris, you come with us? I make coffee. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Pah! Vot good is coffee? I go get drink. 

MAMA 

(Reprovingly) 
Uncle Chris! 

86 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
UNCLE CHRIS 

Marta, you are fine voman. Fine. But I go get drink. I 
get drunk. 

MAMA 

(Quickly aside to katrin) 
His leg hurts him. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

And you do not make excuses for me! I get drunk be- 
cause I like it. 

MAMA 

(Conciliating him) 
Sure, Uncle Chris. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

(Shouting) 
I like it! 

(Then, with a change) 
No, is not true. You know is not true. I do not like to 
get drunk at all. But I do not like to come home with 
you, either. 

(Growing slightly maudlin) 
You have family. Is fine thing. You do not know how 
fine. Katrine, one day when you grow up, maybe you 
know what a fine thing family is. I haf no family. 

KATRIN 

But, Uncle Chris, Mama's always said you were the head 
of the family. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Sure. Sure. I am head of the family, but I haf no family. 
So I go get drunk. You understand, Marta? 

8 7 






I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

Sure, Uncle Chris. You go get drunk. 

(Sharply) 
But don't you feel sorry for yourself! 

(uncle chris glares at her a moment, then strides 
off R., boisterously singing his song of "Ten 
Thousand Swedes" mama watches him go, then 
takes her coat from katrin) 

Is fine man. Has fine ideas about family. 

(katrin helps her on with her coat) 

I can tell Papa now that Dagmar is fine. She wake while 
I am with her. I explain rules to her. She will not expect 
us now until tomorrow afternoon. 

KATRIN 

You won't try and see her again before that? 

MAMA 

(Gravely) 
No. That would be against the rules! Come. We go 
home. 

(They go off L.) 

CURTAIN 



88 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
ACT TWO 



ACT TWO 



scene: Opening, exactly as in Act One. katrin at 
her desk. 



KATRIN 



(Reading) 
"It wasn't very often that I could get Mama to talk- 
about herself, or her life in the old country, or what she 
felt about things. You had to catch her unawares, or 
when she had nothing to do, which was very, very 
seldom. I don't think I can ever remember seeing Mama 
unoccupied." 

(Laying down the manuscript and looking out 

front) 
I do remember one occasion, though. It was the day be- 
fore Dagmar came home from the hospital. And as we 
left, Mama suggested treating me to an ice-cream soda. 

(She rises, gets her hat from beside her— a school 

girl hat-^puts it on and crosses C. while she speaks 

the next lines) 
She had never done such a thing before, and I remember 
how proud it made me feel— just to sit and talk to her 
quietly like a grown-up person. It was a kind of special 
treat-moment in my life that I'll always remember— quite 
apart from the soda, which was wonderful. 

(She has reached C. stage now. mama has come 

from between the curtains, and starts down the 

steps) 

9 1 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

Katrin, you like we go next door, and I treat you to an 
ice-cream soda? 

KATRIN 

{Young now, and overcome) 
Mama— do you mean it? 

MAMA 

Sure. We celebrate. We celebrate that Dagmar is well, 

and coming home again. 

{They cross to the L., where the turntable repre- 
sents a drugstore, with a table and two chairs at 
which they seat themselves) 

What you like to have, Katrin? 

KATRIN 

I think a chocolate . . . no, a strawberry . . . no, a 
chocolate soda. 

MAMA 

(Smiling) 
You are sure? 

KATRIN 

(Gravely) 
I think so. But, Mama, can we afford it? 

MAMA 

I think this once we can afford it. 

(The soda clerk appears from L.) 

SODA CLERK 

What's it going to be, ladies? 

MAMA 

A chocolate ice-cream soda, please— and a cup of coffee. 
(The soda clerk goes) 
9 2 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
KATRIN 

Mama, he called us "ladies"! 

(mama smiles) 
Why aren't you having a soda, too? 

MAMA 

Better I like coffee. 

KATRIN 

When can I drink coffee? 

MAMA 

When you are grown up. 

KATRIN 

When I'm eighteen? 

MAMA 

Maybe before that. 

KATRIN 

When I graduate? 

MAMA 

Maybe. I don't know. Comes the day you are grown up, 
Papa and I will know. 

KATRIN 

Is coffee really nicer than a soda? 

MAMA 

When you are grown up, it is. 

KATRIN 

Did you used to like sodas better . . . before you were 
grown up? 

93 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

We didn't have sodas before I was grown up. It was in 
the old country. 

KATRIN 

(Incredulous) 
You mean they don't have sodas in Norway? 

MAMA 

Now, maybe. Now I think they have many things from 
America. But not when I was little girl. 

(The soda clerk brings the soda and the coffee) 

SODA CLERK 

There you are, folks. 

(He sets them and departs) 

KATRIN 

(After a good pull at the soda) 
Mama, do you ever want to go back to the old country? 

MAMA 

I like to go back once to look, maybe. To see the moun- 
tains and the fjords. I like to show them once to you all. 
When Dagmar is big, maybe we all go back once . . . 
one summer . . . like tourists. But that is how it would 
be. I would be tourist there now. There is no one I would 
know any more. And maybe we see the little house 
where Papa and I live when we first marry. And . . . 

(Her eyes gro<w misty and reminiscent) 
something else I would look at. 

KATRIN 

What is that? 

(mama does not answer) 
What would you look at, Mama? 
94 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

Katrin, you do not know you have brother? Besides 
Nels? 

KATRIN 

No! A brother? In Norway? Mama. . . . 

MAMA 

He is my first baby. I am eighteen when he is born. 

KATRIN 

Is he there now? 

MAMA 

{Simply) 
He is dead. 

KATRIN 

(Disappointed) 
Oh. I thought you meant ... I thought you meant a 
real brother. A long-lost one, like in stories. When did 
he die? 

MAMA 

When he is two years old. It is his grave I would like to 

see again. 

(She is suddenly near tears, biting her lip and stir- 
ring her coffee violently, spilling a few drops on 
her suit. She gets her handkerchief from her 
pocketbook, dabs at her skirt, then briefly at her 
nose, then she returns the handkerchief and turns 
to katrin again) 

(Matter-of-factly ) 
Is good, your ice-cream soda? 

KATRIN 

(More interested noiv in mama than in it) 
Yes. Mama . . . have you had a very hard life? 

95 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

(Surprised) 
Hard? No. No life is easy all the time. It is not meant to 
be. 

KATRIN 

But . . . rich people . . . aren't their lives easy? 

MAMA 

I don't know, Katrin. I have never known rich people. 
But I see them sometimes in stores and in the streets, and 
they do not look as if they were easy. 

KATRIN 

Wouldn't you like to be rich? 

MAMA 

I would like to be rich the way I would like to be ten 
feet high. Would be good for some things— bad for 
others. 

KATRIN 

But didn't you come to America to get rich? 

MAMA 

(Shocked) 
No. We come to America because they are all here— all 
the others. Is good for families to be together. 

KATRIN 

And did you like it right away? 

MAMA 

Right away. When we get off the ferry boat and I see 
San Francisco and all the family, I say: "Is like Norway," 
only it is better than Norway. And then you are all born 
here, and I become American citizen. But not to get rich. 

9 6 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
KATRIN 

/ want to be rich. Rich and famous. I'd buy you your 
warm coat. When are you going to get that coat, Mama? 

MAMA 

Soon now, maybe— when we pay doctor, and Mr. Hyde 
pay his rent. I think now I must ask him. I ask him to- 
morrow, after Dagmar comes home. 

KATRIN 

When I'm rich and famous, I'll buy you lovely clothes. 
White satin gowns with long trains to them. And jew- 
elry. I'll buy you a pearl necklace. 

MAMA 

We talk too much! 

(She signs to the soda clerk) 
Come, finish your soda. We must go home. 

(The soda clerk comes) 

How much it is, please? 

soda clerk 
Fifteen cents. 

MAMA 

Here are two dimes. You keep the nickel. And thank 
you. Was good coffee. 

(They start out and up the steps towards the cur- 
tains C.) 

Tomorrow Dagmar will be home again. And, Katrin, 
you see Uncle Elizabeth is there. This afternoon again 
she was asking for him. You keep Uncle Elizabeth in the 
house all day until she comes home. 

(They disappear behind the curtains) 

97 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

(After a second, the howls of a cat in pain are 
heard from behind the curtains— low at first, then 
rising to a heart-rending volume, and then dimin- 
ishing again as the curtains part on the kitchen 
once more, mama, papa, and dagmar are entering 
the house) 

DAGMAR 

(Standing on threshold, transfixed) 
It's Uncle Elizabeth, welcoming me home! That's his 
song of welcome. Where is he, Mama? 

(She looks around for the source of the howls) 

MAMA 

He is in the pantry. . . . 

(As dagmar starts to rush thither) 
But wait . . . wait a minute, Dagmar. I must tell you. 
Uncle Elizabeth is . . . sick. 

DAGMAR 

Sick? What's the matter with him? 

PAPA 

He has been in fight. Last night. He come home this 
morning very sick indeed. 

(dagmar starts for the pantry door, back R., as 
nels comes out) 

MAMA 

Nels, how is Uncle Elizabeth? Nels, has been doctoring 
him. 

NELS 

He's pretty bad, Mama. I've dressed all his wounds again 
with boric acid, but . . . 

9 8 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

(As dagmar tries to get past him) 
I wouldn't go and see him now, baby. 

DAGMAR 

I've got to. He's my cat. I haven't seen him in a whole 
month. More. 

(She runs into the pantry and disappears) 

MAMA 

Nels, what you think? 

NELS 

I think we ought to have had him put away before she 
came home. 

MAMA 

But she would have been so unhappy if he was not here 
at all. 

NELS 

She'll be unhappier still if he dies. 

(Another howl is heard from the pantry, and then 
dagmar comes rushing back) 

DAGMAR 

Mama, what happened to him? What happened to him? 
Oh, Mama . . . when I tried to pick him up, his bandage 
slipped over his eye. It was bleeding. Oh, Mama, it 
looked awful. Oh . . . 

(She starts to cry) 

MAMA 

(Fondling her) 
He look like that all over. Nels, you go see to his eye 
again. 

(Wearily, nels returns to the pantry) 

99 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

Listen, Dagmar . . . Lille Ven . . . would it not be bet- 
ter for the poor thing to go quietly to sleep? 

DAGMAR 

You mean— go to sleep and never wake up again? 

(mama nods gently) 
No. 

PAPA 

I think he die, anyway. Nels try to make him well. But 
I do not think he can. 

DAGMAR 

Mama can. Mama can do everything. 

(Another ho*wl from offstage. She clutches mama 
agonize dly) 

Make him live, Mama. Make him well again. Please! 

MAMA 

We see. Let us see how he gets through the night. And 
now, Dagmar, you must go to bed. I bring you your 
supper. 

DAGMAR 

But you will fix Uncle Elizabeth? You promise, Mama? 

MAMA 

I promise I try. Go now. 

(dagmar goes out, back L.) 

I must fix her supper. 

(She starts for the pantry. Hoivls again. She and 
papa stand and look at each other, nels comes 
out) 

IOO 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
NELS 

Mama, it's just cruelty, keeping that cat alive. 

MAMA 

I know. 

PAPA 

(As another hoivl, the loudest yet, emerges) 
You say we see how the cat get through the night. I ask 
you how do ive get through the night? Is no use, Marta. 
We must put the cat to sleep. Nels, you go to the drug- 
store, and get something. Some chloroform, maybe. 

(He gives him a coin) 

NELS 

How much shall I get? 

PAPA 

You ask the man. You tell him it is for a cat. He knows. 

(nels goes out L. and doivn the street into the 
wings) 

(Looking at Mama's face) 
Is best. Is the only thing. 

MAMA 

I know. But poor Dagmar. It is sad homecoming for her. 
And she has been so good in hospital. Never once she 
cry. 

(She pulls herself together) 
I get her supper. 

(Another hoivl from offstage) 

And I take the cat outside. Right outside, where we . . . 
where Dagmar cannot hear him. 

(She goes into the pantry, papa takes a folded 

IOI 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

newspaper from his pocket, puts on his glasses 
and starts to read. The door, back L., opens gently 
and mr. hyde peeps out. He wears his hat and coat 
and carries his suitcase and a letter, papa has his 
back to him. mr. hyde lays the letter on the 
dresser and then starts to tiptoe across to the door. 
Then papa sees him) 

PAPA 

You go out, Mr. Hyde? 

MR. HYDE 

(Pretending surprise) 
Oh. . . . Oh, I did not see you, Mr. Hanson. 

(He puts doivn the suitcase) 
I did not know you were back. As a matter of fact, I 
... I was about to leave this letter for you. 

(He fetches it) 
The fact is ... I ... I have been called away. 

PAPA 

So? 

MR. HYDE 

A letter I received this morning necessitates my depar- 
ture. My immediate departure. 

PAPA 

I am sorry. 

(mama returns with a tray, on which are milk, 
bread, butter, and jelly) 

Mama, Mr. Hyde says he goes away. 

MAMA 

(Coming to the table with the tray) 
Is true? 

102 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MR. HYDE 

Alas, dear Madam, yes. 'Tis true, 'tis pity. And pity 'tis, 
'tis true. You will find here . . . 

(He presents the letter) 
my check for all I owe you, and a note expressing my 
profoundest thanks for all your most kind hospitality. 
You will say good-by to the children for me? 

(He boivs, as mama takes the letter) 

MAMA 

(Distressed) 
Sure. Sure. 

MR. HYDE 

(Bowing again) 
Madam, my deepest gratitude. 

(He kisses her hand, mama looks astonished. He 

boivs to papa) 
Sir— my sincerest admiration! 

(He opens the street door) 
It has been a privilege. Ave Atque Vale! Hail and fare- 
well! 

(He makes a gesture and goes) 

MAMA 

Was wonderful man! Is too bad. 

(She opens the letter, takes out the check) 

PAPA 

How much is the check for? 

MAMA 

Hundred ten dollar! Is four months. 

PAPA 

Good. Good. 

103 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

Is wonderful. Now we pay doctor everything. 

PAPA 

And you buy your warm coat. With fur now, maybe. 

MAMA 

(Sadly) 

But there will be no more reading. You take the check, 
Lars. You get the money? 

PAPA 

(Taking it) 
Sure, I get it. What does he say in his letter? 

MAMA 

You read it while I fix supper for Dagmar. 

(She starts to butter the bread, and spread jelly, 
while papa reads) 

PAPA 

(Reading) 
"Dear Friends, I find myself compelled to take a some- 
what hasty departure from ' this house of happiness. . . ." 

MAMA 

Is beautiful letter. 

PAPA 

(Continuing) 
"I am leaving you my library for the children. . . ." 

MAMA 

He leaves his books? 

PAPA 

He says so. 
104 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

MAMA 

But is wonderful. Go see, Lars. See if they are in his 
room. 

(papa lays do*um the letter and goes out back L. 
nels and Christine appear down L. y coming up to 
the house. Christine carries school books) 

CHRISTINE 

I'm sure it was him, Nels. Carrying his suitcase, and get- 
ting on the cable-car. I'm sure he's going away. 

NELS 

Well, I hope he's paid Mama. 

(They open the street door) 

CHRISTINE 

(Bursting in) 
Mama, I saw Mr. Hyde getting on the cable-car. 

MAMA 

I know. He leave. 

CHRISTINE 

Did he pay you? 

MAMA 

Sure, he pay me. Hundred ten dollar. . . 

NELS 

Gee. . . . 

MAMA 

(Smiling) 
Is good. 

CHRISTINE 

Are you going to put it in the Bank? 

105 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

We need it right away. 

(papa returns, staggering under an armload of 
books) 

Mr. Hyde leaves his books, too. For you. 

NELS 

Say! 

(papa stacks them on the table, nels and Christine 
rush to them, reading the titles) 

The Pickwick Papers, The Complete Shakespeare . . . 

CHRISTINE 

Alice in Wonderland, The Oxford Book of Verse . . . 

NELS 

The Last of the Mohicans, Ivanhoe . . . 

CHRISTINE 

We were right in the middle of that. 

MAMA 

Nels can finish it. He can read to us now in the evenings. 
He has fine voice, too, like Mr. Hyde. 

(nels -flushes 'with pleasure) 

Is wonderful. So much we can learn. 

(She finishes the supper-making) 
Christine, you take the butter back to the cooler for me, 
and the yelly, too. 

(christine does so) 

I go up to Dagmar now. 

(She lifts the tray, then pauses) 
You get it, Nels? 

1 06 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
NELS 

What? . . . Oh. . . . 

(Taking a druggist's small bottle from his pocket) 
Here. 

MAMA 

You put it down. After I come back, we do it. You 
know how? 

NELS 

Why, no, Mama, I . . . 

MAMA 

You do not ask? 

NELS 

No, I ... I thought Papa . . . 

MAMA 

You know, Lars? 

PAPA 

No, I don't know . . . but it cannot be difficult. If you 
hold the cat . . . 

MAMA 

And watch him die? No! I think better you get rags . . . 
and a big sponge, to soak up the chloroform. You put it 
in the box with him, and cover him over. You get them 
ready out there. 

NELS 

Sure, Mama. 

MAMA 

I bring some blankets. 

(nels goes off to the pantry, as Christine comes 
back. Again mama lifts the tray and starts for the 

I07 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

door back L. But there is a knock on the street 
door from aunt jenny, who has come to the 
house from down L. in a state of some excitement) 

MAMA 

(Agitated) 
So much goes on! See who it is, Christine. 

CHRISTINE 

(Peeping) 
It's Aunt Jenny. 

(She opens the door) 

MAMA 

Jenny. . . . 

JENNY 

(Breathless) 
Marta . . . has he gone? 

MAMA 

Who? 

JENNY 

Your boarder . . . Mr. Hyde. . . . 

MAMA 

Yes, he has gone. Why? 

JENNY 

Did he pay you? 

MAMA 

Sure he pay me. 

JENNY 

How? 

MAMA 

He give me a check. Lars has it right there. 
1 08 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
JENNY 

(With meaning) 
A check! 

MAMA 

Jenny, what is it? Christine, you give Dagmar her supper. 
I come soon. 

(christine takes the tray from her and goes out 
back L.) 

What is it, Jenny? How do you know that Mr. Hyde 
has gone? 

JENNY 

I was at Mr. Kruper's down the street . . . you know, 
the restaurant and bakery, . . . and he told me Mr. Hyde 
was there today having his lunch, and when he left he 
asked if he would cash a check for him. For fifty dollars. 
(She pauses) 

PAPA 

Well, go on. 

JENNY 

Your fine Mr. Hyde didn't expect Mr. Kruper to take it 
to the bank until tomorrow, but he did. And what do 
you think? Mr. Hyde hasn't even an account at that 
bank! 

(nels returns and stands in the pantry doorivay) 

MAMA 

I don't understand. 

PAPA 

(Taking the check from his pocket) 
You mean the check is no good? 

109 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
JENNY 

No good at all. 

(Triumphantly) 
Your Mr. Hyde was a crook, just as I always thought he 
was, for all his reading and fine ways. Mr. Kruper said 
he'd been cashing them all over the neighborhood. 

(mama stands quite still, without answering) 
How much did he owe you? Plenty, I'll bet. 

(Still no answer) 
Eh? Marta, I said I bet he owed you plenty. Didn't he? 

MAMA 

(Looks around, first at nels and then down at the 
books on the table. She touches them) 

No. No, he owed us nothing. 

(She takes the check from papa, tearing it) 

Nothing. 

JENNY 

(Persistently) 
How much was that check for? 

(She reaches her hand for it) 

MAMA 

(Evading her) 
It does not matter. He pay with better things than 
money. 

(She goes to the stove, where she throws the 
check, watching it burn) 

JENNY 

I told you right in the beginning that you shouldn't trust 
him. But you were so sure ... just like you always are. 
Mr. Hyde was a gentleman. A gentleman! I bet it must 

1 10 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

have been a hundred dollars that he rooked you of. 
Wasn't it? 

MAMA 

(Returning) 
Jenny, I cannot talk now. Maybe you don't have things 
to do. I have. 

JENNY 

(Sneeringly) 
What? What have you got to do that's so important? 

MAMA 

(Taking up the medicine bottle) 
I have to chloroform a cat! 

(jenny steps back in momentary alarm, almost as 
though mama njoere referring to her, as she goes 
out into the pantry 'with the medicine bottle, not 
so very unlike Lady Macbeth ivith the daggers) 

(Blackout and curtains close) 

(After a moment, the curtains part again on the 
kitchen, the next morning. The books have been 
taken off the table, and mama is setting the break- 
fast dishes, "with papa helping her. dagmar comes 
bursting into the room, back L.) 

DAGMAR 

Good morning, Mama. 'Morning, Papa. Is Uncle Eliza- 
beth all better? 

MAMA 

Dagmar, there is something I must tell you. 

DAGMAR 

I want to see Uncle Elizabeth first. 

(She runs into the pantry, mama turns helplessly 
to papa) 

III 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

Do something! Tell her! 

PAPA 

If we just let her think the cat die . . . by itself. . . . 

MAMA 

No. We cannot tell her lies. 

(papa goes to the pantry door, opening it) 

DAGMAR 

(Heard in pantry, off) 
What a funny, funny smell. Good morning, my darling, 
my darling Elizabeth. 

(mama and papa stand stricken, dagmar comes in, 
carrying the cat, wrapped in an old shirt, with its 
head covered) 

My goodness, you put enough blankets on him! Did you 
think he'd catch cold? 

MAMA 

(Horror-stricken) 
Dagmar, you must not. . . . 

(She stops at the sight of the cat, whose tail is 

twitching, quite obviously alive) 
Dagmar, let me see . . . Let me see the cat! 

(She goes over to her, and uncovers its head) 

DAGMAR 

(Overjoyed) 
He's well. Oh, Mama, I knew you'd fix him. 

MAMA 

(Appalled) 
But, Dagmar, I didn't. I . . . 

112 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
DAGMAR 

(Ignoring her) 
I'm going to take him right up and show him to Nels. 

(She rims off back L., calling) 
Nels! Nels! Uncle Elizabeth's well again! 

MAMA 

(Turning to papa) 
Is a miracle! 

PAPA 

(Shrugging) 
You cannot have used enough chloroform. You just give 
him good sleep, and that cures him. We rechristen the 
cat, Lazarus! 

MAMA 

But, Lars, we must tell her. Is not good to lei: her grow 
up believing I can fix everything! 

PAPA 

Is best thing in the world for her to believe. 

(He chuckles) 
Besides, I know exactly how she feels. 

(He lays his hand on hers) 

MAMA 

(Turning %vith embarrassment from his demonstra- 
tiveness) 
We finish getting breakfast. 

(She turns back to the table. The curtains close) 

(Lights up donmi front R. katrin and Christine 
enter from the njoings, in school clothes, wearing 
hats. Christine carries schoolbooks in a strap. 
katrin is reciting) 

"3 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
KATRIN 

"The quality of mercy is not strained, 

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven 

Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest; 

It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes. . . ." 

(She dries up) 
". . . him that takes. It blesseth him that gives and him 
that takes. . . ." 

(She turns to Christine) 
What comes after that? 

CHRISTINE 

I don't know. And I don't care. 

KATRIN 

Why, Chris! 

CHRISTINE 

I don't. It's all I've heard for weeks. The school play, and 
your graduation, and going on to High. And never a 
thought of what's happening at home. 

KATRIN 

What do you mean? 

CHRISTINE 

You see— you don't even know! 

KATRIN 

Oh, you mean the strike? 

CHRISTINE 

Yes, I mean the strike. Papa hasn't worked for four 
whole weeks, and a lot you care. Why, I don't believe 
you even know what they're striking for. Do you? All 
you and your friends can talk about is the presents you're 
going to get. You make me ashamed of being a girl. 

114 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

(T*wo girls, Madeline an d dorothy, come through 
the curtains, C, talking) 

MADELINE 

(To DOROTHY) 

Thyra Walsh's family's going to add seven pearls to the 
necklace they started for her when she was a baby. Oh, 
hello, Katrin! Did you hear about Thyra's graduation 
present? 

KATRIN 

(Not very happily) 
Yes, I heard. 

MADELINE 

I'm getting an onyx ring, with a diamond in it. 

KATRIN 

A real diamond? 

MADELINE 

Yes, of course. A small diamond. 

DOROTHY jQ. 

What are you getting? 

KATRIN 

Well . . . well, they haven't actually told me, but I 
think ... I think I'm going to get that pink celluloid 
dresser set in your father's drugstore. 

DOROTHY 

You mean that one in the window? 

KATRIN 

(To MADELINE) 

It's got a brush and comb and mirror . . . and a hair- 
receiver. It's genuine celluloid! 

115 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
DOROTHY 

I wanted Father to give it to me, out of stock, but he said 
it was too expensive. Father's an awful tightwad. They're 
giving me a bangle. 

MADELINE 

Oh, there's the street-car. We've got to fly. 'By, Katrin. 
'By, Christine. See you tomorrow. Come on, Dorothy. 

(The two girls rush off L.) 

CHRISTINE 

Who said you were going to get the dresser set? 

KATRIN 

Nobody's said so . . . for certain. But I've sort of 
hinted, and . . . 

CHRISTINE 

Well, you're not going to get it. 

KATRIN 

How do you know? 

CHRISTINE t 

Because I know what you are getting. I heard Mama tell 
Aunt Jenny. Aunt Jenny said you were too young to 
appreciate it. 

KATRIN 

What is it? 

CHRISTINE 

Mama's giving you her brooch. Her solje. 

KATRIN 

You mean that old silver thing she wears that belonged 
to Grandmother? What would I want an old thing like 
that for? 

116 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
CHRISTINE 

It's an heirloom. Mama thinks a lot of it. 

KATRIN [^ 

Well, then, she ought to keep it. You don't really mean 
that's all they're going to give me? 

CHRISTINE 

What more do you want? 

i 

KATRIN 

I want the dresser set. My goodness, if Mama doesn't 
realize what's a suitable present . . . why, it's practically 
the most important time in a girl's life, when she gradu- 
ates. 

CHRISTINE 

And you say you're not selfish! 

KATRIN 

It's not selfishness. 

CHRISTINE 

Well, I don't know what else you'd call it. With Papa 
not working, we need every penny we can lay our hands 
on. Even the Little Bank's empty. But you'll devil Mama 
into giving you the dresser set somehow. So why talk 
about it? I'm going home. 

(She turns and goes up the steps and through the 

curtains) 

(katrin stands alone with a set and stubborn 
mouth, and then sits on the steps) 

KATRIN 

Christine was right. I got the dresser set. They gave it to 
me just before supper on graduation night. Papa could 
not attend the exercises because there was a strike meet- 

117 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

ing to decide about going back to work. I was so excited 
that night, I could hardly eat, and the present took the 
last remnants of my appetite clean away. 

(The curtains part on the kitchen, papa, mama, 
and dagmar at table, njoith coffee. Christine is 
clearing dishes) 

CHRISTINE 

' I'll just stack the dishes now, Mama. We'll wash them 
when we come home. 

(She carries them into the pantry) 

PAPA 

(Holding up a cube of sugar) 
Who wants coffee-sugar? 

(He dips it in his coffee) 
Dagmar? 

(He hands it to her) 
Katrin? 

(She rises from the step, coming into the scene for 

the sugar) 

MAMA 

You get your coat, Katrin; you need it. 
(katrin goes out back L.) 

DAGMAR 

Aunt Jenny says if we drank black coffee like you do at 
our age, it would turn our complexions dark. I'd like to 
be a black Norwegian. Like Uncle Chris. Can I, Papa? 

PAPA 

I like you better blonde. Like Mama. 

DAGMAR 

When do you get old enough for your complexion not 
to turn dark? When can we drink coffee? 

118 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
PAPA 

One day, when you are grown up. 

(jenny and trina have come to the street door L. 
jenny knocks) 

MAMA 

There are Jenny and Trina. 

(She goes to the door) 
Is good. We can start now. 

(She opens the door, jenny and trina come in) 

JENNY 

Well, are you all ready? Is Katrin very excited? 

PAPA 

(Nodding) 
She ate no supper. 

(mama has started to put on her hat y and to put 
on Dagmafs hat and coat for her. Christine comes 
back from the pantry, papa gives her a dipped 
cube of sugar) 

JENNY 

Is that black coffee you dipped that sugar in? Lars, you 
shouldn't. It's not good for them. It'll . . . 

PAPA 

(Finishing for her) 
Turn their complexions black. I know. Well, maybe it is 
all right if we have one colored daughter. 

JENNY 

Lars, really! 

(katrin returns with her coat) 

119 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
KATRIN 

Aunt Jenny, did you see my graduation present? 

(She gets it from a chair. Christine gives her a dis- 
gusted look, and goes out back L. katrin displays 
the dresser set) 

Look! It's got a hair-receiver. 

JENNY 

But I thought . . . Marta, I thought you were going to 
give her . . . 

MAMA 

No, you were right, Jenny. She is too young to appre- 
ciate that. She like something more gay . . . more mod- 
ern. 

JENNY 

H'm. Well, it's very pretty, I suppose, but . . . 
(She looks up as mama puts on her coat) 
You're not wearing your solje! 

MAMA 

(Quickly) 
No. I do not wear it tonight. Come, Trina, we shall be 
late. 

TRINA 

Oh, but Peter isn't here yet. 

MAMA 

Katrin has her costume to put on. He can follow. Or do 
you like to wait for Peter? 

TRINA 

I think ... if you don't mind . . . 

MAMA 

You can stay with Lars. He does not have to go yet. 

120 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
JENNY 

I hope Katrin knows her part. 

PAPA 

Sure she knows it. / know it, too. 

TRINA 

It's too bad he can't see Katrin's debut as an actress. 

MAMA 

You will be back before us, Lars? 

PAPA 

(Nodding) 
I think the meeting will not last long. 

MAMA 

Is good. We go now. 

(She goes out with jenny and dagmar. Christine 
and nels return from back L., and follow, waiting 
outside for katrin, while the others go ahead. 
katrin puts on her hat and coat and picks up the 
dresser set) 

PAPA 

(To trina) 
You like we play a game of checkers while we wait? 

trina 

Oh, I haven't played checkers in years. 

PAPA 

Then I beat you. 

(He rises to get the checker set. katrin kisses him) 

KATRIN 

Good-by, Papa. 

121 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

PAPA 

Good-by, daughter. I think of you. 

KATRIN 

I'll see you there, Aunt Trina. 

TRINA 

Good luck! 

PAPA 

I get the checkers. 

(katrin goes out L., papa gets the checker set 
from a cupboard under the dresser, brings it to the 
table and sets it up during the ensuing scene, 
'which is played outside in the street) 

CHRISTINE 

( Contemptuously ) 
Oh, bringing your cheap trash with you to show off? 

KATRIN 

It's not trash. It's beautiful. You're just jealous. 

CHRISTINE 

I told you you'd devil Mama into giving it to you. 

KATRIN 

I didn't. I didn't devil her at all. I just showed it to her 
in Mr. Schiller's window. . . . 

CHRISTINE 

And made her go and sell her brooch that her very own 
mother gave her. 

KATRIN 

What? 

122 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
NELS 

Chris . . . you weren't supposed to tell that! 

CHRISTINE 

I don't care. I think she ought to know. 

KATRIN 

Is that true? Did Mama— Nels— ? 

NELS 

Well, yes, as a matter of fact, she did. Now, come on. 

KATRIN 

No, no, I don't believe it. I'm going to ask Papa. 

NELS 

You haven't time. 

KATRIN 

I don't care. 

(She rushes back to the house and dashes into the 
kitchen. Christine goes off down L., nels follows 
her) 

Papa— Papa— Christine says— Papa, did Mama sell her 

brooch to give me this? 

PAPA 

Christine should not have told you that. 

KATRIN 

It's true, then? 

PAPA 

She did not sell it. She traded it to Mr. Schiller for your 
present. 

KATRIN 

(Near tears) 
Oh, but she shouldn't. ... I never meant . . . 

123 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
PAPA 

Look, Katrin. You wanted the present. Mama wanted 
your happiness; she wanted it more than she wanted the 
brooch. 

KATRIN 

But I never meant her to do that. 

(Crying) 
She loved it so. It was all she had of Grandmother's. 

PAPA 

She always meant it for you, Katrin. And you must not 
cry. You have your play to act. 

KATRIN 

(Sobbing) 
I don't want to act in it now. 

PAPA 

But you must. Your audience is waiting. 

KATRIN 

(As before) 
I don't care. 

PAPA 

But you must care. Tonight you are not Katrin any 
longer. You are an actress. And an actress must act, what- 
ever she is feeling. There is a saying— what is it— 

TRINA 

(Brightly) 
The mails must go through! 

PAPA 

No, no. The show must go on. So you stop crying, and 
go and act your play. We talk of this later. Afterwards. 

124 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
KATRIN 

(Pulling herself together) 
All right. I'll go. 

(Sniffing a good deal, she picks up the dresser set 
and goes back to the street and off down L. papa 
and trina exchange glances, and then settle down 
to their checkers) 

PAPA 

Now we play. 

(The lights fade and the curtains close) 

(Spot up on stage R. turntable. The two girls 
from the earlier scene are dressing in costumes for 
u The Merchant of Venice" before a plank dress- 
ing table) 

DOROTHY 

I'm getting worried about Katrin. If anything's happened 
to her . . . 

MADELINE 

(Pulling up her tights) 
I'll forget my lines. I know I will. I'll look out and see 
Miss Forrester sitting there, and forget every single line. 

(katrin rushes in from the L. She carries the 
dresser set, places it on the dressing table) 

We thought you'd had an accident, or something. . . « 

KATRIN 

Dorothy, is your father here tonight? 

DOROTHY 

He's going to be. Why? 

125 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
KATRIN 

I want to speak to him. 

(As she pulls off her hat and coat) 
Will you tell him . . . please . . . not to go away with- 
out speaking to me? After. After the exercises. 

DOROTHY 

What on earth do you want to speak to Father for? 

KATRIN 

I've got something to say to him. Something to ask him. 
It's important. Very important. 

MADELINE 

Is that the dresser set? 
(Picking it up) 
Can I look at it a minute? 

KATRIN 

(Snatching it from her, violently) 
No! 

MADELINE 

Why, what's the matter? I only wanted to look at it. 

KATRIN 

(Emotionally) 
You can't. You're not to touch it. Dorothy, you take it 
and put it where I can't see it. 

(She thrusts it at her) 
Go on. . . . Take it! Take it! Take it!! 

(Blackout) 

(Curtains part o?i the kitchen, mama and papa in 
conclave at the table with cups of coffee) 

126 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

I am worried about her, Lars. When it was over, I see 
her talking with Mr. Schiller— and then she goes to take 
off her costume and Nels tells me that he will bring her 
home. But it is long time, and is late for her to be out. 
And in the play, Lars, she was not good. I have heard 
her practice it here, and she was good, but tonight, no. 
It was as if ... as if she was thinking of something else 
all the time. 

PAPA 

I think maybe she was. 

MAMA 

But what? What can be worrying her? 

PAPA 

Marta . . . tonight, after you leave, Katrin found out 
about your brooch. 

MAMA 

My brooch? But how? Who told her? 

PAPA 

Christine. 

MAMA 

{Angry) 
Why? 

PAPA 

I do not know. 

MAMA 

(Rising with a sternness njoe have not seen before, 
and calling) 
Christine! Christine! 

127 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
CHRISTINE 

(Emerging from the pantry, wiping a dish) 
Were you calling me, Mama? 

MAMA 

Yes. Christine, did you tell Katrin tonight about my 
brooch? 

CHRISTINE 

(Frightened, but firm) 
Yes. 

MAMA 

Why did you? 

CHRISTINE 

Because I hated the smug way she was acting over that 
dresser set. 

MAMA 

Is no excuse. You make her unhappy. You make her not 
good in the play. 

CHRISTINE 

Well, she made you unhappy, giving up your brooch for 
her selfishness. 

MAMA 

Is not your business. I choose to give my brooch. Is not 
for you to judge. And you know I do not want you to 
tell. I am angry with you, Christine. 

CHRISTINE 

I'm sorry. But I'm not sorry I told. 

(She goes back to the pcmtry njoith a set, obstinate 
face) 

PAPA 

Christine is the stubborn one. 
128 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

(nels and katrin have approached the house out- 
side L. They stop and look at each other in the 
lamplight, katrin looks scared. Then nels pats 
her, and she goes in, nels follo r wing. mama looks 
up inquiringly and searchingly into Katrines face. 
katrin turns away, taking off her hat and coat, 
and taking something from her pocket) 

NELS 

What happened at the meeting, Papa? 

PAPA 

We go back to work tomorrow. 

NELS 

Gee, that's bully. Isn't it, Mama? 

MAMA 

(Absently ) 
Yes, is good. 

KATRIN 

(Coming to mama) 
Mama . . . here's your brooch. 

(She gives it to her) 
I'm sorry I was so bad in the play. I'll go and help Chris- 
tine with the dishes. 

(She turns and goes into the pantry) 

MAMA 

(Unwrapping the brooch from tissue paper) 
Mr. Schiller give it back to her? 

NELS 

We went to his house to get it. He didn't want to. He 
was planning to give it to his wife for her birthday. But 
Katrin begged and begged him. She even offered to go 

129 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

and work in his store during her vacation if he'd give it 
back. 

PAPA 

{Impressed) 
So? So! 

MAMA 

And what did Mr. Schiller say? 

NELS 

He said that wasn't necessary. But he gave her a job all 
the same. She's going to work for him, afternoons, for 
three dollars a week. 

MAMA 

And the dresser set— she gave that back? 

NELS 

Yes. She was awful upset, Mama. It was kinda hard for 
her to do. She's a good kid. Well, I'll say good night. 
I've got to be up early. 

PAPA 

Good night, Nels. 

NELS 

Good night, Papa. 

{He goes out back L.) 

MAMA 

Good night, Nels. 

PAPA 

Nels is the kind one. 

{He starts to re-fill Mama's coffee cup. She stops 
him> putting her hand over her cup) 

No? 

130 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

(Rising, crossing R. and calling) 
Katrin! Katrin! 

KATRIN 

(Coming to the pantry door) 
Yes, Mama? 

MAMA 

Come here. 

(katrin comes to her. mama holds out the 
brooch) 

You put this on. 

KATRIN 

No . . . it's yours. 

MAMA 

It is your graduation present. I put it on for you. 
(She pins the brooch on Katrines dress) 

KATRIN 

(Near tears) 
I'll wear it always. I'll keep it forever. 

MAMA 

Christine should not have told you. 

KATRIN 

I'm glad she did. Now. 

PAPA 

And I am glad, too. 

(He dips a lump of sugar and holds it out to her) 
Katrin? 

131 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

KATRIN 

(Tearful again, shakes her head) 
I'm sorry, Papa. I ... I don't feel like it. 

(She moves away and sits on the chest under the 
window, with her hack to the room) 

PAPA 

So? So? 

(He goes to the dresser) 

MAMA 

What you want, Lars? 

(He does not answer, but takes a cup and saucer, 
comes to the table and pours a cup of coffee, indi- 
cating katrin with his head, mama nods, pleased, 
then checks his pouring and fills up the cup from 
the cream pitcher which she empties in so doing, 
papa puts in sugar, and moves to katrin) 

PAPA 

Katrin. 

(She turns. He holds out the cup) 

KATRIN 

(Incredulous) 
For me? 

PAPA 

For our grown-up daughter. 

(mama nods, katrin takes the cup, lifts it— then 
her emotion overcomes her. She thrusts it at papa 
and rushes from the room) 

PAPA 

Katrin is the dramatic one! Is too bad. Her first cup of 
coffee, and she does not drink it. 

132 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

It would not have been good for her, so late at night. 

PAPA 

(Smiling) 
And you, Marta, you are the practical one. 

MAMA 

You drink the coffee, Lars. We do not want to waste it. 
(She pushes it across to him) 

(Lights dim. Curtains close) 

(Lights up on L. turntable, representing the parlor 
of Jenny's house. A telephone on a table, at "which 
trina is discovered, talking) 

TRINA 

(Into phone) 
Yes, Peter. Yes, Peter. I know, Peter, but we don't know 
where he is. It's so long since we heard from him. He's 
sure to turn up soon. Yes, I know, Peter. I know, but . . . 

(Subsiding obediently) 
Yes, Peter. Yes, Peter. 

(Sentimentally) 
Oh, Peter, you know I do. Good-by, Peter. 

(She hangs up, and turns, to see jenny, nwho has 

come in behind her, eating a piece of toast and 

jam) 

JENNY 

What was all that about? 

TRINA 

Peter says we shouldn't wait any longer to hear from 
Uncle Chris. He says we should send the wedding invita- 
tions out right away. He was quite insistent about it. 

133 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

Peter can be very masterful, sometimes . . . when he's 
alone with me! 

(The telephone rings again, jenny answers it, put- 
ting down the toast, which trina takes up and 
nibbles at during the scene) 

JENNY 

This is Mrs. Stenborg's boarding house. Mrs. Stenborg 
speaking. Oh, yes, Marta . . . what is it? 
(She listens) 

(Spot up on R. turntable, disclosing mama stand- 
ing at a wall telephone booth. She wears hat and 
coat, and has an opened telegram in her hand) 

MAMA 

Jenny, is Uncle Chris. I have a telegram. It says if we 
want to see him again we should come without delay. 

JENNY 

Where is he? 

MAMA 

(Consulting the telegram) 
It comes from a place called Ukiah. Nels says it is up 
north from San Francisco. 

JENNY 

Who is the telegram from? 

MAMA 

It does not say. 

JENNY 

That . . . woman? 

MAMA 

I don't know, Jenny. I think maybe. 
1 34 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
JENNY 

I won't go. 

(sigrid comes in through the curtains C, dressed 
in hat and coat, carrying string marketing bags, 
■full of vegetables, jenny speaks to her, whisper- 
ingly, aside) 

It's Uncle Chris. Marta says he's dying. 

(Then, back into phone) 
Why was the telegram sent to you? I'm the eldest. 

MAMA 

Jenny, is not the time to think of who is eldest. Uncle 
Chris is dying. 

JENNY 

I don't believe it. He's too mean to die. Ever. 

(nels comes to booth from wings, R., and hands 
mama a slip of paper) 

I'm not going. 

MAMA 

Jenny, I cannot stop to argue. There is a train at eleven 
o'clock. It takes four hours. You call Sigrid. 

JENNY 

Sigrid is here now. 

MAMA 

Good. Then you tell her. 

JENNY 

What do you say the name of the place is? 

MAMA 

Ukiah. 

(Spelling in Norwegian) 
U.K.I.A.H. 

135 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

JENNY 

I won't go. 

MAMA 

That you decide. 

(She hangs up. Her spot goes out) 

SIGRID 

Uncle Chris dying! 

JENNY 

The wages of sin. 

TRINA 

Oh, he's old. Maybe it is time for him to go. 

JENNY 

Four hours by train, and maybe have to stay all night. 
All that expense to watch a wicked old man die of the 
D.T.'s. 

SIGRID 

I know, but . . . there is his will. . . . 

JENNY 

Huh, even supposing he's anything to leave— you know 
who he'd leave it to, don't you? 

SIGRID 

Yes. But all the same, he's dying now, and blood is 
thicker than water. Especially when it's Norwegian. I'm 
going. I shall take Arne with me. Uncle Chris was always 
fond of children. 

TRINA 

I agree with Sigrid. I think we should go. 

JENNY 

Well, you can't go, anyway. 

i 3 6 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
TRINA 

Why not? 

JENNY 

Because of that woman. You can't meet a woman like 
that. 

TRINA 

Why not? If you two can . . . 

SIGRID 

We're married women. 

TRINA 

I'm engaged! 

JENNY 

That's not the same thing. 

SIGRID 

Not the same thing at all! 

TRINA 

Nonsense. I've never met a woman like that. Maybe I'll 
never get another chance. Besides, if he's going to change 
his will, there's still my dowry, remember. Do you think 
we should take Peter? 

JENNY 

Peter Thorkelson? Whatever for? 

TRINA 

Well, after all, I mean ... I mean, his profession . . . 

JENNY 

Trina, you always were a fool. Anyone would know the 
last person a dying man wants to see is an undertaker! 

(Blackout) (Turntable revolves out) 

137 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

(Spot up on katrin, standing down front, R.C. 
She wears her school-girl hat) 

KATRIN 

When Mama said I was to go with her, I was excited and 
I was frightened. It was exciting to take sandwiches for 
the train, almost as though we were going on a picnic. 
But I was scared at the idea of seeing death, though I told 
myself that if I was going to be a writer, I had to experi- 
ence everything. But all the same, I hoped it would be all 
over when we got there. 

(She starts to walk toward C. and up the steps) 
It was afternoon when we arrived. We asked at the sta- 
tion for the Halvorsen ranch, and it seemed to me that 
the man looked at us strangely. Uncle Chris was obvi- 
ously considered an odd character. The ranch was about 
three miles from the town; a derelict, rambling old place. 
There was long grass, and tall trees, and a smell of honey- 
suckle. We made quite a cavalcade, walking up from the 
gate. 

(The procession comes in front the R., behind 

KATRIN. MAMA, JENNY, TRINA, SIGRID, and ARNE) 

The woman came out on the steps to meet us. 

(The procession starts towards the C, moving 
upwards. The woman comes through the curtains, 
down one step. The aunts freeze in their tracks, 
mama goes forward to her) 

MAMA 

How is he? Is he—? 

WOMAN 

(With grave self-possession) 
Come in, won't you? 

i 3 8 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

(She holds the curtains slightly aside, mama goes 
in. katrin follows, looking curiously at the 
woman. The aunts walk stiffly past her, sigrid 
clutching arne and shielding hint from contact 
with the woman. They disappear behind the cur- 
tains. The woman stands a moment, looking off 
into the distance. Then she goes in behind the cur- 
tains, too) 

(The curtains draw apart, revealing Uncle Chris'' 
bedroom. It is simple, mid shabby. The door to the 
room is at the back, L. In the L. wall is a window, 
with curtains, drawn aside now. In front of it, a 
wash-stand. The afternoon sunlight comes through 
the window, falling onto the big double bed, in 
which uncle chris is propped up on pillows. Be- 
side him, R., on a small table is a pitcher of water. 
He has a glass in his hand, mama stands to the R. 
of him: jenny to the L. The others are ranged be- 
low the window. The woman is not present) 

UNCLE CHRIS 

(Handing mama the empty glass) 
I want more. You give me more. Is still some in the bottle. 

MAMA 

Uncle Chris, that will not help now. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

It always help. 

(With a glance at jenny) 
Now especially. 

JENNY 

(Firmly) 
Uncle Chris, I don't think you realize . . . 

139 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
UNCLE CHRIS 

What I don't realize? That I am dying? Why else do I 
think you come here? Why else do I think you stand 
there, watching me? 

(He sits upright) 
Get out. Get out. I don't want you here. Get out! 

JENNY 

Oh, very well. Very well. We'll be outside on the porch, 
if you want us. 

(She starts towards the door) 

UNCLE CHRIS 

That is where I want you— on the porch! 

(jenny goes out. trina follows, sigrid is about to 
go, too, when uncle chris stops her) 

Wait. That is Arne. Come here, Arne. 

(arne, propelled by sigrid, advances toward the 
bed) 

How is your knee? 

ARNE 

It's fine, Uncle Chris. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Not hurt any more? You don't use svear vords any 
more? 

ARNE 

N-no, Uncle Chris. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

You walk goot? Quite goot? Let me see you walk. Walk 
around the room. 

(arne does so) 

140 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

Fast. Fast. Run! Run! 

(arne does so) 
Is goot. 

SIGRID 

(Encouraged and advancing) 
Uncle Chris, Arne has always been so fond of you. . . . 

UNCLE CHRIS 

(Shouting) 
I tell you all to get out. Except Marta. 

(As katrin edges with the aunts to the door) 

And Katrine. Katrine* and I haf secret. You remember, 
Katrine? 

KATRIN 

Yes, Uncle Chris. 

MAMA 

Uncle Chris, you must lie down again. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Then you give me drink. 

MAMA 

No, Uncle Chris. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

We cannot waste what is left in the bottle. You do not 
drink it . . . who will drink it when I am gone? What 
harm can it do . . . now? I die, anyway. . . . You give 
it to me. 

(mama goes to the wash-stand, pours him a drink 
of whiskey and water, and takes it to him, sitting 
on the bed beside him. He drinks, then turns to 
her, leaning back against her arm and the pillows) 

141 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

Marta, I haf never made a will. Was never enough money. 
But you sell this ranch. It will not bring moch. I have not 
had it long enough. And there is mortgage. Big mortgage. 
But it leave a little. Maybe two, tree hundred dollars. 
You give to Yessie. 

MAMA 

Yessie? 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Yessie Brown. My housekeeper. No, why I call her that to 
you? You understand. She is my voman. Twelve years 
she has been my voman. My wife, only I cannot marry 
her. She has husband alive somewhere. She was trained 
nurse, but she get sick and I bring her to the country to 
get well again. There will be no money for you, Marta. 
Always I wanted there should be money to make Nils 
doctor. But there were other things . . . quick things. 
And now there is no time to make more. There is no 
money, but you make Nils doctor, all the same. You 
like? 

MAMA 

Sure, Uncle Chris. It is what Lars and I have always 
wanted for him. To help people who suffer. . . . 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Is the greatest thing in the world. It is to have a little of 
God in you. Always I wanted to be doctor myself. Is the 
only thing I have ever wanted. Nils must do it for me. 

MAMA 

He will, Uncle Chris. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Is goot. 

(He strokes her hand) 

142 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

You are the goot one. I am glad you come, Lille Ven. 

(He moves his head restlessly) 
Where is Yessie? 

MAMA 

I think she wait outside. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

You do not mind if she is here? 

MAMA 

Of course not, Uncle Chris. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

You call her. I like you both be here. 

(mama goes, 'with a quick glance at katrin. uncle 
chris signs to katrin to come closer. She sits on 
the chair beside the bed) 

Katrine, your Mama write me you drink coffee now? 

(She nods. He looks at her affectionately) 

Katrine, who will be writer. . . . You are not frightened 
of me now? 

KATRIN 

No, Uncle Chris. \ 

UNCLE CHRIS 

One day maybe you write story about Uncle Chris. If 
you remember. 

KATRIN 

( Whispering) 
I'll remember. 

(mama returns with the woman. They come to 
the side of his bed) 

H3 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
UNCLE CHRIS 

(Obviously exhausted and in pain) 
I like you both stay with me . . . now. I think best now 
maybe Katrine go away. Good-by, Katrine. 

(Then he repeats it in Norwegian) 
Farvell, Katrine. 

KATRIN 

Good-by, Uncle Chris. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

You say it in Norwegian, like I do. 

KATRIN 

(In Norwegian) 
Farvell, Onkel Chris. 

(She slips out, in tears) 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Yessie! Maybe I should introduce you to each other. 
Yessie, this is my niece, Marta. The only von of my 
nieces I can stand. Marta, this is Yessie, who have give me 
much happiness. . . . 

(The two women shake hands) 

MAMA 

I am very glad to meet you. 

JESSIE 

I am, too. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

(As they shake) 
Is goot. And now you give me von more drink. You have 
drink with me . . . both of you. That way we finish the 
bottle. Yes? 

(jessie and mama look at each other) 

144 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

Sure, Uncle Chris. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

Goot. Yessie, you get best glasses. 
( With a chuckle to mama) 
Yessie does not like to drink, but this is special occasion. 

(jessie gets three glasses from a "wall shelf) 

What is the time? 

MAMA 

It is about half past four, Uncle Chris. 

UNCLE CHRIS 

The sun come around this side the house in afternoon. 
You draw the curtain a little maybe. Is strong for my 
eyes. 

(mama goes over and draws the curtain over the 
window. The stage darkens, jessie pours three 
drinks, filling two of the glasses with water. She is 
about to put water in the third when uncle chris 
stops her) 

No, no, I take it now without water. Always the last 
drink without water. Is Norwegian custom. 

{To mama, with a smile) 
True? 

(jessie sits on the bed beside him, about to feed 
his drink to him, but he pushes her aside) 

No. No, I do not need you feed it to me. I can drink 
myself. 

{He takes the glass from her) 
Give Marta her glass. 

H5 



I REMEMBER MAMA 



(jessie hands a glass to mama. The two women 
stand on either side of the bed, holding their 
glasses) 



So. . . . Skoal! 

JESSIE 



Skoal. 

MAMA 

Skoal. 



(Clinking glasses with him) 

(Doing likewise) 

(They all three drink. Slow dim to blackout. Cur- 
tains close) 

(Spot up on R. turntable. A porch with a bench, 
and a chair, on which the three aunts are sitting. 
jenny is dozing) 

SIGRID 

(Flicking her handkerchief) 
These gnats are awful. I'm being simply eaten alive. 

TRINA 

Gnats are always worse around sunset. 
(She catches one) 

JENNY 

(Rousing herself) 
I should never have let you talk me into coming. To be 
insulted like that . . . turned out of his room . . . and 
then expected to sit here hour after hour without as 
much as a cup of coffee. . . . 

SIGRID 

I'd make coffee if I knew where the kitchen was. 
146 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
JENNY 

Her kitchen? It would poison me. 

(Rising) 
No, I'm going home. Are you coming, Trina? 

TRINA 

Oh, I think we ought to wait a little longer. After all, 
you can't hurry these things. ... I mean . . . 

(She breaks off in confusion at what she has said) 

JENNY 

(To sigrid) 
And all your talk about his will. A lot of chance we got 
to say a word! 

TRINA 

Maybe Marta's been talking to him. 

(mama comes from between the curtains C.) 

JENNY 

Well? 

MAMA 

Uncle Chris has . . . gone. 
(There is a silence) 

JENNY 

(More gently than is her wont) 
Did he . . . say anything about a will? 

MAMA 

There is no will. 

JENNY 

Well, then, that means . . . we're his nearest rela- 
tives. . . . 

H7 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

There is no money, either. 

SIGRID 

How do you know? 

MAMA 

He told me. 

(She brings out a small notebook that she is carry- 
ing) 

JENNY 

What's that? 

MAMA 

Is an account of how he spent the money. 

JENNY 

Bills from a liquor store. 

MAMA 

No, Jenny. No. I read it to you. 

(jenny sits again) 

You know how Uncle Chris was lame . . . how he 
walked always with limp. It was his one thought . . . 
lame people. He would have liked to be doctor and help 
them. Instead, he help them other ways. I read you the 
last page. . . . 

(She reads from the notebook) 
"Joseph Spinelli. Four years old. Tubercular left leg. 
Three hundred thirty-seven dollars, eighteen cents." 

(Pause) 
"Walks now. Esta Jensen. Nine years. Club-foot. Two 
hundred seventeen dollars, fifty cents. Walks now." 

(Then, reading very slowly) 
"Arne Solfeldt. . . ." 

148 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
SIGRID 

(Startled) 
My Arne? 

MAMA 

(Reading on) 
"Nine years. Fractured kneecap. Four hundred forty-two 
dollars, sixteen cents." 

(katrin and arne come naming in from the L. 
across the stage) 

arne 

(Calling as he comes running across) 
Mother . . . Mother . . . Are we going to eat soon? 

(He stops, awed by the solemnity of the group, 

and by mama, <who puts out her hand gently, to 

silence him) 
What is it? Is Uncle Chris . . . ? 

MAMA 

(To the aunts) 
It does not tell the end about Arne. I like to write 
"Walks now." Yes? 

SIGRID 

(Very subdued) 
Yes. 

MAMA 

(Taking a pencil from the book) 
Maybe even . . . "runs"? 

( sigrid nods, moist-eyed, trina is crying, mama 
writes in the book, and then closes it) 

So. Is finished. Is all. 

149 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

(She touches jenny on the shoulder) 
It was good. 

JENNY 

(After a gulping moment) 
I go and make some coffee. 

(The woman, jessie, appears from between the 
curtains on the steps) 

JESSIE 

You can go in and see him now if you want. 

(jenny looks back, half-hesitant at the others. 
Then she nods and goes in. trina follows her, 
mopping her eyes, sigrid puts her arm suddenly 
around arne in a spasm of maternal affection, and 
they, too, go in. mama, katrin, and jessie are left 
alone) 

I'm moving down to the hotel for tonight ... so that 
you can all stay. 

(She is about to go back, when mama stops her) 

MAMA 

Wait. What will you do now . . . after he is buried? 
You have money? 

(jessie shakes her head) 

Where you live? 

JESSIE 

I'll find a room somewhere. I'll probably go back to 
nursing. 

MAMA 

You like to come to San Francisco for a little? To our 
house? We have room. Plenty room. 

150 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
JESSIE 

(Touched, moving to mama) 
That's very kind of you, but . . . 

MAMA 

I like to have you. You come for a little as our guest. 
When you get work you can be our boarder. 

JESSIE 

(Awkwardly grateful) 
I don't know why you should bother. . . . 

MAMA 

(Touching her) 
You were good to Uncle Chris. 

( jessie grasps her hand, deeply moved, then turns 
and goes quickly back through the curtains, mama 
turns to katrin) 

Katrin, you come and see him? 

KATRIN 

(Scared) 
See him? You mean . . . 

MAMA 

I like you see him. You need not be frightened. He looks 
. . . happy and at peace. I like you to know what death 
looks like. Then you are not frightened of it, ever. 

KATRIN 

Will you come with me? 

MAMA 

Sure. 

(She stretches out her hand, puts her arm around 
her, and then leads her gently in through the cur- 
tains) 

151 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

(Spot up on L. turntable, representing a park 
bench against a hedge, trina, and mr. thorkel- 
son, in outdoor clothes, are seated together, trina 
is cooing over a baby -carriage) 

TRINA 

Who's the most beautiful Norwegian baby in San Fran- 
cisco? Who's going to be three months old tomorrow? 
Little Christopher Thorkelson! 

(To mr. thorkelson) 
Do you know, Peter, I think he's even beginning to look 
a little like Uncle Chris! Quite apart from his black curls 
—and those, of course, he gets from you. 

(To baby again) 
He's going to grow up to be a black Norwegian, isn't he, 
just like his daddy and his Uncle Chris? 

(Settling donjon beside mr. thorkelson) 
I think there's something about his mouth ... a sort of 
. . . well . . . firmness. Of course, it's your mouth, too. 
But then I've always thought you had quite a lot of 
Uncle Chris about you. 

(She looks back at the baby) 
Look— he's asleep! 

MR. THORKELSON 

Trina, do you know what next Thursday is? 

TRINA 

(Nodding, smiling) 
Our anniversary. 

MR. THORKELSON 

What would you think of our giving a little party? 

TRINA 

A party? 
152 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MR. THORKELSON 

Oh, quite a modest one. Nothing showy or ostentatious— 
but, after all, we have been married a year, and with 
your having been in mourning and the baby coming so 
soon and everything, we've not been able to entertain. I 
think it's time you . . . took your place in society. 

TRINA 

(Scared) 
What . . . sort of a party? 

MR. THORKELSON 

An evening party. 

(Proudly) 
A soiree! I should say about ten people . . . some of 
the Norwegian colony . . . and Lars and Marta, of 
course. . . . 

TRINA 

(Beginning to count on her fingers) 
And Jenny and Sigrid. . . . 

MR. THORKELSON 

Oh ... I ... I hadn't thought of asking Jenny and 
Sigrid. 

TRINA 

Oh, we'd have to. We couldn't leave them out. 

MR. THORKELSON 

Trina, I hope you won't be offended if I say that I have 
never really felt . . . well, altogether comfortable with 
Jenny and Sigrid. They have always made me feel that 
they didn't think I was . . . well . . . worthy of you. 
Of course, I know I'm not, but . . . well . . . one 
doesn't like to be reminded of it . . . all the time. 

153 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
TRINA 

(Taking his hand) 
Oh, Peter. 

MR. THORKELSON 

But you're quite right. We must ask them. Now, as to 
the matter of refreshments . . . what would you sug- 
gest? 

TRINA 

(Flustered) 
Oh, I don't know. I . . . what would you say to . . . 
ice cream and cookies for the ladies . . . and coffee, of 
course . . . and . . . perhaps port wine for the gentle- 
men? 

MR. THORKELSON 

(Anxiously) 
Port wine? 

TRINA 

Just a little. You could bring it in already poured out, 
in little glasses. Jenny and Sigrid can help me serve the 
ice cream. 

MR. THORKELSON 

(Firmly) 
No. If Jenny and Sigrid come, they come as guests, like 
everyone else. You shall have someone in to help you in 
the kitchen. 

TRINA 

You mean a waitress? 

(mr. thorkelson nods, beaming) 
Oh, but none of us have ever ... do you really think 
154 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

... I mean . . . you did say we shouldn't be ostenta- 
tious. . . . 

MR. THORKELSON 

(Nervously) 
Trina, there's something I would like to say. I've never 
been very good at expressing myself or my . . . well 
. . . deeper feelings— but I want you to know that I'm 
not only very fond of you, but very . . . well . . . very 
proud of you as well, and I want you to have the best of 
everything, as far as it's in my power to give it to you. 

(As a climax) 
I want you to have a waitress! 

TRINA 

(Overcome) 
Yes, Peter. 

(They hold hands) 

(The lights jade and the turntable revolves out) 

(Curtains part on kitchen, slightly changed, smart- 
ened and refurnished novo, mama and papa seated 
as usual, dagmar, looking a little older, is seated on 
the chest, reading a solid-looking hook, nels en- 
ters from back L. door, carrying a newspaper. He 
voears long trousers novo, and looks about seven- 
teen) 

NELS 

Hello! Here's your evening paper, Papa. 

(papa puts dovon the morning paper he is reading, 
and takes the evening one from nels) 

papa 
Is there any news? 

*55 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
NELS 

No. 

(He takes out a package of cigarettes with elabo- 
rate unconcern, mama watches with disapproval. 
Then, as he is about to light his cigarette, he stops, 
remembering something) 

Oh, I forgot. There's a letter for Katrin. I picked it up 

on the mat as I came in. 

(Going to door back L., and calling) 

Katrin! Katrin! There's a letter for you. 

KATRIN 

(Answering from off stage) 
Coming! 

MAMA 

Nels, you know who the letter is from? 

NELS 

Why, no, Mama. 

(Hands it to her) 
It looks like her own handwriting. 

MAMA 

(Gravely inspecting it) 
Is bad. 

PAPA 

Why is bad? 

MAMA 

She get too many like that. I think they are stories she 
send to the magazines. 

DAGMAR 

(Closing her book loudly, rising) 
Well, I'll go and see if I have any puppies yet. Mama, 
I've just decided, something. 

i 5 6 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

What have you decided? 

DAGMAR 

If Nels is going to be a doctor, when I grow up, I'm go- 
ing to be a— 

{Looking at the book-title, and stumbling over the 

word) 
vet-vet-veterinarian. 

MAMA 

And what is that? 

DAGMAR 

A doctor for animals. 

MAMA 

Is good. Is good. 

DAGMAR 

There are far more animals in the world than there are 
human beings, and far more human doctors than animal 
ones. It isn't fair. 

(She goes to the pantry door) 
I suppose we couldn't have a horse, could we? 

(This only produces a concerted laugh from the 
family. She turns, sadly) 

No. ... I was afraid we couldn't. 

(She goes into the pantry, katrin comes in, back 
L. She wears a slightly more adult dress than be- 
fore. Her hair is up and she looks about eighteen) 

KATRIN 

Where's the letter? 

157 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 



Here. 



{Handing it to her) 

(katrin takes it, nervously. She looks at the en- 
velope, and her face falls. She opens it, pulls out a 
manuscript and a rejection slip, looks at it a mo- 
ment, and then replaces both in the envelope. The 
others watch her covertly. Then she looks up, 
with determination) 

KATRIN 

Mama . . . Papa ... I want to say something. 

PAPA 

What is it? 

KATRIN 

I'm not going to go to college. 

PAPA 

Why not? 

KATRIN 

Because it would be a waste of time and money. The 
only point in my going to college was to be a writer. 
Well, I'm not going to be one, so . . . 

MAMA 

Katrin, is it your letter that makes you say this? It is a 
story come back again? 

KATRIN 

Again is right. This is the tenth time. I made this one a 
test. It's the best I've ever written, or ever shall write. I 
know that. Well, it's no good. 

NELS 

What kind of a story is it? 

i 5 8 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
KATRIN 

Oh . . . it's a story about a painter, who's a genius, and 
he goes blind. 

NELS 

Sounds like "The Light That Failed." 

KATRIN 

Well, what's wrong with that? 

NELS 

{Quickly) 
Nothing. Nothing! 

KATRIN 

Besides, it's not like that. My painter gets better. He has 
an operation and recovers his sight, and paints better than 
ever before. 

MAMA 

Is good. 

KATRIN 

(Bitterly unhappy) 
No, it isn't. It's rotten. But it's the best I can do. 

MAMA 

You have asked your teachers about this? 

KATRIN 

Teachers don't know anything about writing. They just 
know about literature. 

MAMA 

If there was someone we could ask . . . for advice . . . 
to tell us . . . tell us if your stories are good. 

KATRIN 

Yes. Well, there isn't. And they're not. 

159 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
PAPA 

(Looking at the evening paper) 
There is something here in the paper about a lady writer. 
I just noticed the headline. Wait. 

(He looks back for it and reads) 
"Woman writer tells key to literary success." 

KATRIN 

Who? 

PAPA 

A lady called Florence Dana Moorhead. It gives her pic- 
ture. A fat lady. You have heard of her? 

KATRIN 

Yes, of course. Everyone has. She's terribly successful. 
She's here on a lecture tour. 

MAMA 

What does she say is the secret? 

PAPA 

You read it, Katrin. 

(He hands her the paper) 

KATRIN 

(Gabbling the first part) 
"Florence Dana Moorhead, celebrated novelist and short 
story writer . . . blah-blah-blah . . . interviewed today 
in her suite at the Fairmont . . . blah-blah-blah . . . 
pronounced sincerity the one essential quality for success 
as a writer." 

(Throwing aside the paper) 
A lot of help that is. 

MAMA 

Katrin, this lady ... maybe if you sent her your stories, 
she could tell you what is wrong with them? 

1 60 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
KATRIN 

(Wearily) 
Oh, Mama, don't be silly. 

MAMA 

Why is silly? 

KATRIN 

Well, in the first place because she's a very important 
person ... a celebrity . . . and she'd never read them. 
And in the second, because . . . you seem to think writ- 
ing's like . . . well, like cooking, or something. That all 
you have to have is the recipe. It takes a lot more than 
that. You have to have a gift for it. 

MAMA 

You have to have a gift for cooking, too. But there are 
things you can learn, if you have the gift. 

KATRIN 

Well, that's the whole point. I haven't. I kno*w . . . now. 
So, if you've finished with the morning paper, Papa, I'll 
take the want ad. section, and see if I can find myself a 
job. 

(She takes the morning paper and goes out R.) 

MAMA 

Is bad. Nels, what you think? 

NELS 

I don't know, Mama. Her stories seem all right to me, but 
I don't know. 

MAMA 

It would be good to know. Nels, this lady in the paper 
. . . what else does she say? 

161 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
NELS 

{Taking up the paper) 
Not much. The rest seems to be about her and her home. 
Let's see. . . . 

(He reads) 
"Apart from literature, Mrs. Moorhead's main interest in 
life is gastronomy." 

MAMA 

The stars? 

NELS 

No— eating. "A brilliant cook herself, she says that she 
would as soon turn out a good souffle as a short story, or 
find a new recipe as she would a first edition." 

MAMA 

(Reaching for the paper) 
I see her picture? 

(She looks at it) 
Is kind face. 

(Pause while she reads a moment. Then she looks 

up and asks) 
What is first edition? 

(Blackout) 

(Lights up on L. turntable, representing the lobby 
of the Fairmont hotel. A couch against a column 
with a palm behind it. An orchestra plays softly in 
the background, mama is discovered seated on the 
couch, waiting patiently. She wears a hat and a 
suit, and clutches a newspaper mid a bundle of 
manuscripts. A couple of guests come through the 
curtains and cross, disappearing into the wings L. 
mama watches them. Then Florence dana moor- 

162 



I REMEMBER MAMA 



head enters through the curtains. She is a stout, 
dressy, good-natured, middle-aged 'woman. A 
bell-boy comes from the R., paging her) 

BELL-BOY 

Miss Moorhead? 

F. D. MOORHEAD 

Yes? 

BELL-BOY 

Telegram. 

F. D. MOORHEAD 

Oh. . . . Thank you. 

(She tips him, and he goes, mama rises and moves 
towards her) 

MAMA 

Please . . . Please . . . Miss Moorhead . . . Miss Moor- 
head. 

F. D. MOORHEAD 

{Looking up from her telegram, on the steps) 
Were you calling me? 

MAMA 

Yes. You are . . . Miss Florence Dana Moorhead? 

F. D. MOORHEAD 

Yes. 

MAMA 

Please . . . might I speak to you for a moment? 

F. D. MOORHEAD 

Yes— what's it about? 



i6 3 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

I read in the paper what you say about writing. 

F. D. MOORHEAD 

(With a vague social smile) 
Oh, yes? 

MAMA 

My daughter, Katrin, wants to be writer. 

F. D. MOORHEAD 

(Who has heard that one before) 
Oh, really? 

(She glances at her watch on her bosom) 

MAMA 

I bring her stories. 

F. D. MOORHEAD 

Look, I'm afraid I'm in rather a hurry. I'm leaving San 
Francisco this evening. . . . 

MAMA 

I wait two hours here for you to come in. Please, if I 
may talk to you for one, two minutes. That is all. 

F. D. MOORHEAD 

(Kindly) 
Of course, but I think I'd better tell you that if you want 
me to read your daughter's stories, it's no use. I'm very 
sorry, but I've had to make it a rule never to read any- 
one's unpublished material. 

MAMA 

(Nods— the?i after a pause) 
It said in the paper you like to collect recipes . . . for 
eating. 

164 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
F. D. MOORHEAD 

Yes, I do. I've written several books on cooking. 

MAMA 

I, too, am interested in gastronomy. I am good cook. 
Norwegian. I make good Norwegian dishes. Luteflsk. 
And Kjodboller. That is meat-balls with sauce. 

F. D. MOORHEAD 

Yes, I know, I've eaten them in Christiania. 

MAMA 

I have a special recipe for Kjodboller . . . my mother 
give me. She was best cook I ever knew. Never have I 
told this recipe, not even to my own sisters, because they 
are not good cooks. 

F. D. MOORHEAD 

(Amused) 
Oh? 

MAMA 

But ... if you let me talk to you ... I give it to you. 
I promise it is good recipe. 

F. D. MOORHEAD 

( Vastly tickled now) 
Well, that seems fair enough. Let's sit down. 

(They move to the couch and sit) 

Now, your daughter wants to write, you say? How old 
is she? 

MAMA 

She is eighteen. Just. 

F. D. MOORHEAD 

Does she write, or does she just . . . want to write? 

i6 5 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

Oh, she writes all the time. Maybe she should not be au- 
thor, but it is hard to give up something that has meant 
so much. 

F. D. MOORHEAD 

I agree, but . . . 

MAMA 

I bring her stories. I bring twelve. 

F. D. MOORHEAD 

(Aghast) 
Twelve! 

MAMA 

But if you could read maybe just one . . . To know if 
someone is good cook, you do not need to eat a whole 
dinner. 

F. D. MOORHEAD 

You're very persuasive. How is it your daughter did not 
come herself? 

MAMA 

She was too unhappy. And too scared ... of you. Be- 
cause you are celebrity. But I see your picture in the 
paper. . . . 

F. D. MOORHEAD 

That frightful picture! 

MAMA 

Is the picture of woman who like to eat good. . . . 

F. D. MOORHEAD 

( With a rueful smile) 
It certainly is. Now, tell me about the Kjodboller. 

1 66 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

When you make the meat-balls you drop them in boiling 
stock. Not water. That is one of the secrets. 

F. D. MOORHEAD 

Ah! 

MAMA 

And the cream sauce. That is another secret. It is half 
sour cream, added at the last. 

F. D. MOORHEAD 

That sounds marvelous. 

MAMA 

You must grind the meat six times. I could write it out 
for you. And . . . 

{Tentatively) 
while I write, you could read? 

F. D. MOORHEAD 

(With a laugh) 
All right. You win. Come upstairs to my apartment. 
(She rises) 

MAMA 

Is kind of you. 

(They start out L.) 

Maybe if you would read two stories, I could write the 
recipe for Lutefisk as well. You know Lutefisk . . . ? 

(They have disappeared into the wings, and the 
turntable revolves out) 

(Spot up, R. turntable, katrin at her desk) 

i6j 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
KATRIN 

When Mama came back, I was sitting with my diary, 
which I called my Journal now, writing a Tragic Fare- 
well to my Art. It was very seldom that Mama came to 
the attic, thinking that a writer needed privacy, and I was 
surprised to see her standing in the doorway. 

(She looks up. mama is standing on the steps, C.) 
Mama! 

MAMA 

You are busy, Katrin? 

KATRIN 

(Jumping up) 
No, of course not. Come in. 

MAMA 

(Coming down) 
I like to talk to you. 

KATRIN 

Yes, of course. 

MAMA 

(Seating herself at the desk) 
You are writing? 

KATRIN 

No. I told you, that's all over. 

MAMA 

That is what I want to talk to you about. 

KATRIN 

It's all right, Aaama. Really, it's all right. I was planning to 
tear up all my stories this afternoon, only I couldn't find 
half of them. 

168 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

They are here. 

KATRIN 

Did you take them? What for? 

MAMA 

Katrin, I have been to see Miss Moorhead. 

KATRIN 

Who's Miss . . . ? You don't mean Florence Dana Moor- 
head? 

(mama nods) 

You don't mean . . . Mama, you don't mean you took 
her my stories? 

MAMA 

She i'ead five of them. I was two hours with her. We 
have glass of sherry. Two glass of sherry. 

KATRIN 

What . . . what did she say about them? 

MAMA 

{Quietly) 
She say they are not good. 

KATRIN 

{Turning cnvay) 
Well, I knew that. It was hardly worth your going to all 
that trouble just to be told that. 

MAMA 

She say more. Will you listen, Katrin? 

KATRIN 

{Trying to be gracious) 
Sure. Sure. I'll listen. 

169 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
MAMA 

I will try and remember. She say you write now only 
because of what you have read in other books, and that 
no one can write good until they have felt what they 
write about. That for years she write bad stories about 
people in the olden times, until one day she remember 
something that happen in her own town . . . something 
that only she could know and understand . . . and she 
feels she must tell it . . . and that is how she write her 
first good story. She say you must write more of things 
you know. . . . 

KATRIN 

That's what my teacher always told me at school. 

MAMA 

Maybe your teacher was right. I do not know if I explain 
good what Miss Moorhead means, but whiie she talks I 
think I understand. Your story about the painter who is 
blind . . . that is because . . . forgive me if I speak 
plain, my Katrin, but it is important to you . . . because 
you are the dramatic one, as Papa has said . . . and you 
think it would feel good to be a painter and be blind and 
not complain. But never have you imagined how it would 
really be. Is true? 

KATRIN 

(Subdued) 
Yes, I ... I guess it's true. 

MAMA 

But she say you are to go on writing. That you have the 
gift. 

(katrin turns back to her, suddenly aglow) 

And that when you have written story that is real and 

170 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

true . . . then you send it to someone whose name she 
give me. 

(She fumbles for a piece of paper) 
It is her . . . agent . . . and say she recommend you. 
Here. No, that is recipe she give me for goulash as her 
grandmother make it . . . here . . . 

(She hands over the paper) 
It helps, Katrin, what I have told you? 

KATRIN 

(Subdued again) 
Yes, I ... I guess it helps. Some. But what have / got to 
write about? I haven't seen anything, or been any- 
where. 

MAMA 

Could you write about San Francisco, maybe? Is fine 
city. Miss Moorhead write about her home town. 

KATRIN 

Yes, I know. But you've got to have a central character 
or something. She writes about her grandfather ... he 
was a wonderful old man. 

MAMA 

Could you maybe write about Papa? 

KATRIN 

Papa? 

MAMA 

Papa is fine man. Is wonderful man. 

KATRIN 

Yes, I know, but . . . 

MAMA 

(Rising) 
I must go fix supper. Is late. Papa will be home. 

I7i 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

(She goes iip the steps to the curtains, and then 
turns back) 
I like you should write about Papa. 
(She goes inside) 

KATRIN 

(Going back to her seat behind the desk) 
Papa. Yes, but what's he ever done? What's ever hap- 
pened to him? What's ever happened to any of us? Ex- 
cept always being poor and having illnesses, like the time 
when Dagmar went to hospital and Mama . . . 

(The idea hits her like a flash) 
Oh. . . . Oh. . . . 

(Pause— then she becomes the katrin of today) 
And that was how it was born . . . suddenly in a flash 
. . . the story of "Mama and the Hospital" . . . the first 
of all the stories. I wrote it . . . oh, quite soon after that. 
I didn't tell Mama or any of them. But I sent it to Miss 
Moorhead's agent. It was a long time before I heard any- 
thing . . . and then one evening the letter came. 

(She takes an envelope from the desk in front of 
her) 
For a moment I couldn't believe it. Then I went rushing 
into the kitchen, shouting. . . . 

(She rises from the desk, taking some papers with 
her, and rushes upstage, crying, "Mama, Mama" 
The curtains have parted on the kitchen— and the 
family tableau— mama, papa, Christine, and nels. 
dagmar is not present, katrin comes rushing in, 
up the steps. The R. turntable revolves out as soon 
as she has left it) 
Mama . . . Mama . . . I've sold a story! 

MAMA 

A story? 

172 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

KATRIN 

Yes, I've got a letter from the agent . . . with a check 
for . . . 

(Gasping) 
five hundred dollars! 

NELS 

No kidding? 

MAMA 

Katrin ... is true? 

KATRIN 

Here it is. Here's the letter. Maybe I haven't read it right. 
(She hands the letter, papa and mama huddle and 
gloat over it) 

CHRISTINE 

What will you do with five hundred dollars? 

KATRIN 

I don't know. I'll buy Mama her warm coat, I know that. 

CHRISTINE 

Coats don't cost five hundred dollars. 

KATRIN 

I know. We'll put the rest in the Bank. 

NELS 

(Kidding) 
Quick. Before they change their mind, and stop the 
check. 

KATRIN 

Will you, Mama? Will you take it to the Bank down- 
town tomorrow? 

173 



I REMEMBER MAMA 

(mama looks vague) 
What is it? 

MAMA 

I do not know how. 

NELS 

Just give it to the man and tell him to put it in your ac- 
count, like you always do. 

(mama looks up at papa) 

PAPA 

You tell them . . . now. 

CHRISTINE 

Tell us what? 

MAMA 

(Desperately) 
Is no Bank Account! Never in my life have I been inside 
a bank. 

CHRISTINE 

But you always told us . . . 

KATRIN 

Mama, you've always said . . . 

MAMA 

I know. But was not true. I tell a lie. 

KATRIN 

But why, Mama? Why did you pretend? 

MAMA 

Is not good for little ones to be afraid ... to not feel 
secure. But now . . . with five hundred dollar ... I 
think I can tell. 

174 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
KATRIN 

(Going to her, emotionally) 
Mama! 

MAMA 

(Stopping her, quickly) 
You read us the story. You have it there? 

KATRIN 

Yes. 

MAMA 

Then read. 

KATRIN 

Now? 

MAMA 

Yes. No— Wait. Dagmar must hear. 

(She opens pantry door and calls) 
Dagmar. 

DAGMAR 

(Off) 

Yes, Mama? 

MAMA 

(Calling) 
Come here, I want you. 

DAGMAR 

(Off) 
What is it? 

MAMA 

I want you. No, you leave the rabbits! 

(She comes back) 
What is it called . . . the story? 

175 



I REMEMBER MAMA 
KATRIN 

(Seating herself in the chair that Mr. Hyde took 
in the opening scene) 
It's called "Mama and the Hospital." 

PAPA 

(Delighted) 
You write about Mama? 

KATRIN 

Yes. 

MAMA 

But I thought ... I thought you say ... I tell you . . . 
(She gestures at papa, behind his back) 

KATRIN 

I know, Mama, but . . . well, that's how it came out. 
(dagmar comes in) 

DAGMAR 

What is it? What do you want? 

MAMA 

Katrin write story for magazine. They pay her five hun- 
dred dollar to print it. 

DAGMAR 

(Completely umnterested) 
Oh. 

(She starts back for the pantry) 

MAMA 

(Stopping her) 
She read it to us. I want you should listen. You are ready, 
Katrin? 

176 



I REMEMBER MAMA 



KATRIN 

Sure. 

MAMA 

Then read. 



(The group around the table is now a duplicate of 
the grouping around mr. hyde'ztz the first scene, 
with katrin in his place) 



KATRIN 



(Reading) 
"For as long as I could remember, the house on Steiner 
Street had been home. All of us were born there. Nels, 
the oldest and the only boy . . ." 

(nels looks up, astonished to be in a story) 

"my sister, Christine ..." 

(christine does likewise) 
"and the littlest sister, Dagmar. . . ." 

DAGMAR 

Am I in the story? 

MAMA 

Hush, Dagmar. We are all in the story. 

KATRIN 

"But first and foremost, I remember Mama." 

(The lights begin to dim and the curtain slowly to 
fall. As it descends, we hear her voice continuing) 

"I remember that every Saturday night Mama would sit 
down by the kitchen table and count out the money 
Papa had brought home in the little envelope. . . ." 

(By now, the curtain is down) 

THE END 

177 



■~^-f~_ 






3 



\I • i-;L< 



I remember mama, main 
822.91V246iC2 



3 lEbE 031A7 3002 




\r •